TGB readers generate a lot of good ideas for blog posts, sometimes without knowing it. The latest that caught Crabby Old Lady's attention is pretty much a perfect fit with one of the tenets of TimeGoesBy – that we talk about old age things here that nobody ever tells us will happen. We discover them the hard way.
About a week ago, Patty-in-New-York left, in part, this comment:
”Reading this post,” wrote Patty, “I was struck by how complicated it is, managing your illness.”
No kidding. As soon as Crabby read that, she realized such thoughts have been rolling around in her head for some time, just slightly out of reach. Patty's note made them manifest along with instant understanding that Crabby is far from the only old person doing this.MEDICATIONS
Start with medications. It's not just the pills themselves, it's how and when they are taken. Crabby has one that she takes first thing in the morning. Another – a double dose of two pills - to take 30 minutes before breakfast.
There are five or six more she takes at the beginning of that meal, and another pill that she must take before every meal and every snack she eats; it is crucial to replacing the enzymes her body can no longer produce on its own.
Then there are the evening pills. Some related to the evening meal, others not. Oh, and one more – Crabby takes cannabis in a variety of forms an hour before she intends to go to sleep to relieve the insomnia she lived with for many years.
Crabby counts out all these into little pillbox containers every Saturday for the coming week. She's been doing this now for two years. It's boring. Really boring. Crabby sighs a lot on Saturday when she counts them out.
Since the breathing problem appeared, Crabby has been on an inhaler four times a day which is now plugged into her schedule with the pills and altogether, they go something like this: 6AM, 7AM, 10AM, noon, 2PM, 6PM and so on. It means being in almost constant communication with a clock all day every day.
About a year ago, Crabby needed to inject a solution into the fat in her belly twice a day for two months. This is not fun and the longer it went on the fewer “clean” places there were to stick the needle. Thank god she didn't need to find a vein.
As Crabby has undoubtedly mentioned, cancer and chemotherapy eat up energy (calories) faster than a healthy body and weight loss can quickly lead to frailty. Crabby is regularly admonished by the nurses and doctors to eat lots of protein and animal fat and if she is not eating enough, weight slips off her body like water after a shower.
So first thing every morning Crabby weighs herself, marks the number on the chart she keeps and adjusts her eating for any given day on whether her weight is heading up or down.
Start with the aforementioned shower. For reasons Crabby doesn't understand, showering leaves her breathing hard before she's halfway done. She is completely baffled as to why standing mostly still while lovely hot water falls over her body should do this.
Making the bed since the breathing problem appeared is a long procedure; Crabby needs to sit and rest two or three times when straightening the covers, and don't even ask how many times she rests while changing the bed.
Even getting dressed sometimes requires a rest period to get her breathing back on course.
Carrying groceries in from the car? Crabby used to just grab all the bags, even six or seven of them, and walk them into the house. With the breathing problem now, that many bags requires at least three trips with a 10 minute rest between each one.
Further – again, associated with the breathing difficulty - even standing still can be exhausting. It still surprises Crabby every time she washes the few dishes one person generates that she's breathing hard before she's halfway through two plates, a cup, silverware and a pot or pan.
Often, just bending over to pick up a dropped pen or pencil results in a few minutes of heavy breathing.
In comparison, laundry is relatively easy. Throw it in the washer with the soap, then dump it in the dryer. Crabby can manage folding with only a couple of rest periods.
Mostly, Crabby can manage only one trip from the house per day (she has come to think of them as expeditions) to do the grocery shopping, a medical appointment, lunch with a friend, etc.
Nowadays, Crabby takes stairs slow and easy, trying to avoid them if at all possible. Even slight inclines in the pavement for a few feet leave her exhausted and breathing hard.
And it's more than just the physical activity and driving; there is a kind of psychic fatigue at being away from home that piles onto “normal” sluggishness resulting from what it takes to get through a day now.
TIME SLIPS AWAY
All of this, and more that she skipped over telling you, eats up hours from Crabby's day, especially when she's tired enough to need a nap. But she signed up for it and shouldn't complain – at least, not too much. She can ditch all the treatment at any time and let the disease take its course. No one is stopping her.
So far she is willing to live this way although what she lately misses most is personal time. She goes brain dead by about 3:30 in the afternoon which means that in addition to household maintenance for the day, she is done with books, magazines, the internet, email, writing the blog – anything that takes mental power.
Speaking of email, a goodly amount of it arrives daily with messages, questions, suggestions and other missives from readers that need at least a “thank you” if not a longer response.
But there comes a time in the afternoon – usually around that 3PM mark – when Crabby cannot sit at the computer for one more moment without crashing. Her body is done for the day.
When that happens, unanswered email is likely to go unanswered indefinitely as it gets mixed with all the new stuff that drops into the inbox and as Crabby just described, there are many fewer hours in her day than there once were. She tries, but she hopes you will understand if you don't get an answer.
One of the few things Crabby Old Lady has learned over time all by herself is that if it is happening to her, it is happening to a lot of other people.
Crabby isn't the only denizen of TGB who struggles with managing a chronic or deadly disease (or "just" getting older) and she wonders what you do to keep it all together. How do you deal with needs, limitations and surprises old age inflicts?