“Well I don’t know
but I’ve been told
to never slow down
never grow old.”
Well I don’t know, either. It’s one thing for teen and twentysomething pop music stars to make confident claims about staying young. But it always appealed to me that Tom Petty, at his age in his shoes with talents and fame and fortune, had dared to question the ridiculous idea. And I’m certain that the legitimate strength and joys of youth, and the wisdom and understanding of age, have been deliberated for quite some time..
“Is not wisdom found in abundance among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”
-Job 12 [written ~8000 (!) years ago.]
Before dealing with this diagnosis, I viewed aging as we see and hear all around us. It’s one of the leading inevitable bummers; something to tolerate because you have no choice.
“50 is the new 40.”
“How to fight wrinkles…”
“Do this to turn back the clock on…”
I did plenty of time considering my own mortality, thinking about what it means to gracefully accept the realities of aging, and living with a mindset of gratitude over fear. Yes, tomorrow is a gift. I accepted that while we should constantly take measures to live well, do our tic checks, brush and floss our teeth, use our seatbelts in cars and now masks in crowded indoor environments, much of it is out of our control. But the actual ability to grow old? I definitely took that for granted. I largely missed the substantial space between tomorrow and eternity. I had professional and personal goals, but never truly dealt with the possibility of missing all the joys of the next 5, 10, 20 years.
My new 5- and 10- year plan is to…be here.
But now, having been through the ringer and…enlightened over the last 6 months, I’m often trying not to think about things that were previously not given an ounce of mental energy. Even five years seems like the gift that it is. My heart swells at the idea of getting grey hair. The routine procedures and exams, even the dreaded colonoscopy… Yeah, sure. Cake-walk. Rather than bemoaning and grudgingly accepting the fine points of decline in physical abilities, I realize that deadlifting a fraction of what I use to, with some like minded brothers, is in fact minimal loss and quadruple blessing. The idea of walking grandchildren around the pond and shuffling down the road for a walk with my bride is bliss.
My official diagnosis is Cholangiocarcinoma. Please do look it up if you’re curious. But remember that you and I probably bring quite limited perspective into our google searches and readings in this realm, with partial understanding at best. And here we may easily get into some quickly outdated info. Still, it does not take an advanced science degree to understand that stage 4 of this particular type is rough through the short- mid-, and long-term. Many people who respond poorly to the first line treatment that I’m currently on (and responding well to so far) are given months and weeks, not years.
Some folks don’t mention the “c” word or name their diagnosis because they hope to deny the disease even an inch of leverage in their mind and body. I considered that for a long time, and still respect that position. But now I officially declare not to give a damn. This is the reality that I and my family (and friends and medical team) are dealing with. It may take me 20 or 40 minutes each morning to deal; get my head together and reacclimate to the situation that I’m “suddenly” in. But cancer has no power over my spirit.
Growing older does pose legitimate challenges for everyone. We all have hopes and dreams and fears for the future. Almost everyone can look back and see various ways they took their youth for granted. “I wish I knew then what I know now.” Well, I’m urging you “then,” to be thankful for the opportunity to age. Don’t take your greys for granted.