Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
A two-time cancer survivor explores her thoughts on aging.
I am now one of "those" people. You know, someone who has some gray hair and talks about health worries, procedures, medications and medical concerns with fellow aging folks. Fall is now a metaphorical life stage as well as a seasonal event. And yet: I still feel young inside! I suspect many of us do. My feelings include some satisfaction at my achievements, but there are also hopes and dreams not yet experienced. It may be helpful for cancer survivors and others to ponder aging.
In my forties, cancer pitched me into early post-menopause, then osteopenia (loss of bone mass), permanent hair loss and brittle hair, and then finally neuropathy (numbness in the foot I "coincidentally" rolled and broke a couple years ago). Cancer is the unwanted gift that just seems to keep on giving. I am grateful to be here. I would just like fewer cancer reminders and signs of deterioration. Who wouldn't?
A person could mope or make the best use of the time that is left. I just finished It's Never Too Late To Begin Again, and I am currently working on You Can Draw In 30 Days. I also have an upcoming MRI to look at my pancreas because of my PALB2 cancer mutation and a vague plan in my mind to see an endocrinologist and join a fitness gym (again) to work on my fatigue. I learn that I can do new things and be responsible about my ongoing healthcare.
Life feels strangely in flux as we experience our fifties, sixties, and beyond. I am trying to float gently with it. Will we sell our home? Will we spend part of the year somewhere warm? The answer today is maybe, but not quite yet. It is fun and disconcerting to ponder and to be open to options. I am grateful to have options and possibilities while at the same time I fret at the lack of a clear plan. Sound familiar? We are not alone - there are resources to help!
Some of the later life worries are the same ones I always had: how can I help aging relatives, will our kids be okay, will we run out of money. Faith helps a lot, and I am learning that exploring hobbies and completing home projects does not always have to be expensive. I can even work on what I eat and how I move. I can educate myself with reliable sources on the Internet. I can buy used books and inexpensive supplies from a dollar store. These experiences can be the same regardless of whether I am a cancer survivor or not. It just makes me happy to be here today!
Fall is a great opportunity to evaluate, make some fun new choices, and break yourself out of your usual routines. Don't let cancer or fear of its return paralyze you. Sit down, write a bucket list, and then don't wait - get to it! The seasons of life will come and go much too quickly. Within those brief windows of time, we still have the opportunity to make choices and have new experiences. Don't give up even when, like me, you suddenly realize you too may be turning into one of "those" people.