A woman who has been living with metastatic breast cancer for seven years reflects on the strangeness of her body aging. “It’s the one thing I never imagined would happen after being diagnosed with and while living with a terminal illness – I’m actually getting old,” she writes.
I have worn either glasses or contact lenses for the majority of my life. I can remember being in elementary school and squinting up at the chalkboard before my parents even knew I needed glasses. The memory of picking out that 1980s frame is fresh in my mind after today. The frame was mostly pink fading into a bluish hue made of clear, tinted plastic. The glasses were the kind that had the metal arm at the bottom of the frame and had a fancy upward swoop instead of straight across. I distinctly recall the first time I went outside with my first pair of eyeglasses and I noticed all the shapes and colors of the leaves on the trees where before they were just green blurry blobs.
It had been too long since my last eye exam. I’ll blame the pandemic for putting off that appointment. I was starting to notice my vision wasn’t as clear as it used to be, and those leaves weren’t looking as sharp as they should. While at my appointment with the eye doctor today he asked the usual health questions, such as had I been diagnosed with anything major since I was there last. Now I know I had been there since my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis and I was fairly certain he should have that information in my chart, so I casually replied, “Oh, just metastatic breast cancer.” He paused for a second, looked at me, and said, “Just that, huh?” Well, I guess having cancer is kind of a big deal. Today at that appointment it didn’t feel like a big deal though. Cancer has become another part of who I am. I am living with it and I am growing old with it.
After getting the preliminaries out of the way, we went through the “Is it clearer in lens one or two?” rigmarole and, as my optometrist called it, “fine-tuned” my prescription for new contacts and glasses. Now it’s been a while since I’ve worn contacts. I have mostly been wearing my glasses these days. As he fitted me for the new contacts, he informed me that because of my “age,” in order to correct my distance vision it will now affect my close-up vision. Wait, what? Yes, that’s right, I now have to wear multifocal eyeglasses or wear cheater magnifying glasses when I am wearing my contacts. I am getting old. It’s really happening. It’s the one thing I never imagined would happen after being diagnosed with and while living with a terminal illness – I’m actually getting old.
I mentioned to my dad about my new prescription correcting my nearsightedness to the point where the farsightedness needs correction now too. He said that’s what happens when we get old. He’s been dealing with the same situation for a number of years now and was able to commiserate and offer me some words of wisdom.
I realized today that as I am busy living my life with metastatic breast cancer, time is still going by and my body is still aging. As I walked my dog in the neighborhood, I once again noticed the shapes of the leaves on the trees, and it brought me back to that first new eyeglass experience I had growing up. I am ecstatic to be seeing clearly now, and grateful I am getting older, even if I do have to wear those bifocals or reading glasses. I’ve earned it. Seven years and seven months living with metastatic breast cancer gives one a much different perspective on life. Getting older is something I definitely want to see more of. My hope every day is to see a cure in my lifetime and be given the opportunity to grow old with and continue to see those I love.
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