You've read it here more than once – that Crabby Old Lady never wanted to become a professional patient, and in the time following her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in June, she has fought against it mightily.
Well, phooey. It has been a futile effort from the get-go that Crabby should have known better than to try. This isn't a broken bone that will heal in a few weeks or a new knee.
So today we have another chapter in Crabby Old Lady's attempts to adjust to her new situation in life. Some in the news business would call it a thumbsucker but Crabby, as always, is helpless against E.M. Forster's dictum, “how do I know what I think until I see what I say”.
Don't take any of this too seriously yet. Some (many? a lot?) of these thoughts, complaints and feelings are new to Crabby and therefore, by definition, half-baked. No doubt there will be revisions.
In the three months since those terrifying words, pancreatic cancer, were said out loud, Crabby is only gradually realizing how much her life will be permanently different. It is much more than she expected or wanted.
Crabby will spare you the lists and just say the nuts and bolts of living with this disease and the results of the surgery average out to a couple of hours a day, every day – hours for which she had other plans. Certainly she has seen more doctors more frequently than all such previous encounters combined.
Six months of weekly chemotherapy begin a week from today and for the past 10 days or so Crabby been buried in reading matter about all the awful things it might do to her, how she can help prevent some of them and which of those side effects are medical emergencies to be addressed immediately.
Elsewhere, Crabby's life is now controlled by lists of what she can and can't eat, keeping medications straight, phone numbers she might need and more.
This stuff is exactly what she never wanted in life. But here's the thing: for all these years of studying ageing, being as healthy as she was until now, Crabby never really “got” what most old people live with. According to Kaiser Health News,
”The majority of adults 65 and over have multiple chronic conditions that contribute to frailty and disability, according to a 2013-14 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [pdf].
“The percentage of chronic conditions among people 65 and over has increased over time, too. The percentage of people reporting hypertension, asthma, cancer and diabetes was higher in 2013-14 than in 1997-98, reports the CDC...
“About 57 percent of women and 55 percent of men age 65 and up reported hypertension. Another 54 percent of women and 43 percent of men reported arthritis.”
Obviously, Crabby Old Lady was lucky for the first 76 years of her life and she never fully appreciated how much time chronic diseases and conditions steal from elders' lives nor the personal effort required day in and day out to maintain as much health and well-being as possible.
Having spent a great deal of time thinking over all this, Crabby has come up with a few new words to live by:
⚫ Get over being a professional patient. It is what you are now. Live with it.
⚫ Accept the changes the disease is placing on daily life. They are your new normal.
⚫ Focus on what is possible now, not how life was before.
Crabby suspects that many of you, dear readers, have already been there, done this and Crabby Old Lady is just now catching up with you.