Apparently it’s a rite of passage to realise that your parents aren’t immortal. Apparently my generation are the first to be likely to have to care for both children and parents. Apparently, such is the parlous state of Western Societies’ health, that my daughters’ generation may be the first to have a lower life expectancy than their parents, or at least to spend many years living in ill-health.
The last few weeks have brought home a few hard realities for me, all centred around the health of three people.
In January my Father had his cancerous bladder removed, and it has been a long and tortuous recovery so far. We were told in advance that it would be so, but the details of this, the complications that are actually fairly common, and the debilitating indignities have taken us all by surprise. It’s been more than a little frightening and humbling to experience how we’ve all had to realign expectations and what constitutes a good day.
Nevertheless, he is recovering and has remained remarkably and resiliently positive, despite the daily steps forward and back, the 15lbs weight-loss that doesn’t want to go back on, the painfully slow healing process. And the recent news that the cancer may have already escaped beyond the bladder.
Dad has had heart bypass surgery around 20 years ago, not to mention a pacemaker fitted only last year, yet until the operation he was still swimming 4-5 days a week. Mum has had breast cancer but been in remission for many years, so we’re no strangers to this sort of thing. But maybe because I’m older now, with children; wiser and more attentive, more aware of others, it has mattered more. But it has brought us closer.
Around the same time a younger work colleague of mine has been off sick, with a still-largely-undiagnosed problem which causes him to vomit, often and repeatedly, at almost any time of day or night. He too has lost weight, been unable to work and has had little or no resolution thus far. For a young guy in his 20s these must be grim times, and he’s such a social, inspiring and outgoing character that his ongoing isolation must be tough. He’s sorely missed in the office, and we all wish him well.
Then last week, a dear friend in her early 40s was diagnosed with breast cancer, and faces 5 months of chemotherapy starting any day soon. We enjoyed a victorious night at a Quiz Night only a few weeks ago.
What the bollocks is going on? Have I been shielded from this up to now, have I been lucky? Or was I simply in denial when Mum & Dad were ill before?
This won’t be the most coherent post on this blog, because I’m not done processing it all. But I Reckon I can say this much; be healthy, eat healthily, exercise. Do what you can to reduce risks and improve your chances. Love your friends and family. Don’t put off saying what you should be saying to them, or making time to spend time with them. Your people are the most important things in your life. Make sure they know it.