I was working at home while recovering from pneumonia. I took a phone call from Vikki’s doctor. They asked me to have her call and make an appointment to “discuss her mammogram results”.
That led to a biopsy then another wait for results, and then another call like the first one.
“The doctor wants you to come in…”
The biopsy was malignant.
We spent our time in family phone calls and frantic online research for information about likely outcomes and odds of survival.
We were sent to an appointment with a cancer surgeon. The waiting rooms had people who were a lot sicker than Vikki. It was hard to keep the dread from seeping into our hearts.
Before long there was an operation. The surgeon came to me in the waiting room and reassured me like they always do.
“She did great.” As if my wife had done anything other than lay there drugged unconscious and continue breathing.
“I think she’ll be fine, but we need to see the lab results from the tissue I removed.”
Yet another wait for the results – and this time they were good ones.
Then we had follow-up meetings with radiation and chemotherapy doctors. They both said that as long as she had mammograms every six months and an MRI once a year, she could get along without further treatment.
Now it’s over and we can get on with our lives. But we’ve been changed by this experience. And by the memories of not-so-lucky people in those waiting rooms.
An older man with his wife clutching his arm, making explanations to the nurses about how his week had gone while he held a handkerchief to his mouth and stared at nothing.
A middle-aged woman with a scarf covering her baldness, accompanied by a teenaged daughter who was texting on her cell phone while they waited.
A little boy in a wheel chair being loved and coddled by the nurses while his mother looked on, smiling through teary eyes.
We’ve had to consider what we might do if this had been really bad news and how our lives would change if that were so. And how one of us will one day have to go on alone.
Life is different for us now. We are even more appreciative of each other than before (if that were possible). And we are more respectful of our bodies and our health and spiritual habits.
We’re paying a lot more attention to prayer and meditation, and are re-thinking our diets and life-styles. We went on a 5-day cleansing fast to mark the change in our way of living.
Vikki has begun training for a 60 mile Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk For The Cure, and has raised several thousand dollars in pledges.
I’ve begun to reflect on some of the larger issues of life. Being in my late sixties, I’ve had to take a good look at aging and mortality, whatever became of my hair, and what happened to my smoothly moving knee and hip joints?
Vikki and I have talked about this and I want to share our thinking with you. The twin message of my pneumonia and then Vikki’s cancer has helped us to focus our thinking about how to live this phase of life.
Yeah, we call them “messages”. It doesn’t seem very smart to call these events “bad luck”.
We believe that it’s a good idea to take WHATEVER comes at you in this life, and treat it as some sort of scripture in code. It’s up to each of us to figure out what there is to be learned, and how it can be made to benefit us and to enrich our lives and the lives around us.
I’m beginning to think that the advantage of age over youth is hidden in that thought. The offset for the losses of youthfulness is the grace and wisdom of age.
But it MUST BE EARNED. Youth is a gift, designed primarily to encourage reproduction. But the advantages of aging are not a gift.
The benefits are there but we must work for them. We must be constantly asking ourselves, “What’s the meaning of this? How can this be useful and uplifting?”
Those of us who accept the job of earning the power and resilience of the knowledge of our lives get to reproduce even in old age.
We can create offspring in a larger sense than just biological. We can provoke and inspire others who follow us in life’s path, sharing our insights and reassuring them that life CAN get better as we get age. We can be examples.
We can demonstrate our courage and generosity, patience and humor, faith — and always, our growing ability to love.
It’s the only way that getting older is any more rewarding than just beating the grim reaper for another day. And I personally think that life is designed to get better and better until our time is over.
How about you?