I live in a senior community here in Arizona where the subject of cancer is discussed often. After all, the average age here is 65, and 80% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are in people 55 years of age or older. And while my own male breast cancer is extremely rare, there are many varieties of the disease to be found here.
The other day I was chatting with a friend who wanted to check on the status of my older brother who was about to have surgery for a possible cancerous tumor in his neck. Interestingly, I had just received news that my colon cancer test results were positive and that a colonoscopy had been scheduled for me. All things considered, this was not a good day up to that point. I needed to laugh.
Perhaps as a way to ease our concern over my brother's surgery, my friend and I recounted our own surgical history and we were surprised at how often medical science had come to our aid over the years. I spoke of my recent double knee replacements, my mastectomy for male breast cancer, double hernia surgery, kidney stones, and now the threat of a colon cancer diagnosis.
Living in an over 55 community, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at the endless medical procedures I hear about from my neighbors. It seems that simply surviving can become a full-time ambition for many of us. My friend told me about another group of seniors who gathered often, where the subject invariably turned to all things involving doctors and hospitals and all of the medical madness that had touched their lives. He said they had a name for the group and their heartfelt health discussions.
They called them "Organ Recitals".
I laughed out loud upon realizing that this phenomenon of seniors like me reminiscing about our ongoing medical issues had really hit home. But the truth is, despite all the senior rhetoric, I'm actually interested in the stories we tell. After all, as a guy who regularly writes about cancer and is also a survivor and advocate for our disease, I'm eager to follow the latest discoveries and information that seem to manifest daily.
Cancer is a rapidly evolving experience. No matter what the stage or grade of our particular form of the disease, there is always something on the horizon to give us hope that one day a cure will become a reality.
Verbalizing our personal encounters with modern medicine is one way we have of coping with the uncertainty that life presents. I suspect that when my group of seniors gets together to talk about the various repaired or transplanted or eliminated parts in our bodies, it's not so much the trauma of our medical interventions that inspires our conversations as it is the astonishing advancements in medicine that have extending our lives.
I've found that, regardless of my own "stereotypical view" of old people like me sharing and re-sharing our aches, pains and various ailments, by just listening to my senior colleagues with a compassionate ear I'm allowing them to express and heal in their own way. Besides, some of these tales are real whoppers.
We are alive at a good time in history. And with each new advance that medicine and science discovers there's a hidden benefit. We inherit yet another story to share at our ongoing "Organ Recitals".