Alice doesn’t live here anymore….

It’s official.  Alice faces an eviction notice. Sometime in the next ten months Alice will be out of my life forever.  Recently she as caused me great pain and suffering. Her fickleness a robbed me of vitality . She has lulled me into a sense off fake hope, only to viciously turning me faster than Trump turned on his cronies.

Nevertheless,  I will be a little sad to see her go. She as been with me for many years, all my life in fact.  She supported me through childbirth,  bore the brunt of the burden on my Yukon adventure, and kept me company on a daily basis.  Before she turned nasty, she was there for me while I recently  finally grew into the person I always dreamed of being.

I didn’t think she paid much attention to me but obviously she was listening when,  I pronounced to the universe upon my retirement that I would try to “do it all” in the next 3 year, before my body gave out on me. Perhaps she was jealous and couldn’t stand to see my success. So, out of seer spite, over the last year, and true to my unfortunate prophecy,  she began to turn on me –  the nasty parasite. Her actions were insidious, building intensity slowly. I, like the proverbial frog in the frying pan, didn’t realize what she was doing until it was too late.  A little ache here, a sharp pain there, a grinding, popping noise everywhere – the symptoms soon grew in intensity. So much that a few months ago, she almost incapacitated me.

My harsh awakening came on while I was carrying out an otherwise mundane task one cool January day. Up until a few weeks before that date, I still dreamed of grand retirement adventures – hiking the West Coast Trail next summer, tackling the legendary El Camino trail with my sister, and of tackling the many mountain trails near our vacation property. No dream was too big for me – until Alice sought her revenge.

The need for Alice’s eviction smacked me in the face when I found myself in tears in the grocery aisle. I had to pick up  paper towels, but they were 5 rows away. I didn’t think I could walk that far, as I was debilitated by her pain. At that moment, I knew I had joined the legions of seniors who grasp desperately to their shopping carts for support the moment they enter a grocery store – who seek the parking spot closest to the door so they don’t have to walk so far. Who most certainly have no place on steep mountain trails.

Thus began my final journey to have Alice evicted – in other words, I knew I needed a new right hip. I decided to call my hip “Alice” so in a few months I can proudly declare “Alice doesn’t live here anymore”.

And it is now official. I am on the countdown. Sometimes in the next 10 months I will undergo a full hip replacement.  I know I will be fine once it is done, and my healing is complete.  But this disease has slowly robbed me of many retirement dreams. I waited too long to really run a marathon, too long to hike the West Coast Trail, too long to tackle many of the physical challenges I had dreamed of meeting.  I know I will have to find other dreams to replace these – and ultimately I will.  But in the meantime, I will allow myself a little time to mourn the change.  I have to face reality – that I am soon going to be 60 years old, and I have osteoarthritis  – a disease that will continue to slowly pick away at my physical vitality.  The dreams of my youth need to fade away and make room for dreams more suited to this new phase of life.

I’ve decided that a positive unanticipated outcome of our long healthcare waiting list is that it is giving me time to adapt to the change. I am having the proper mourning time to adjust to my new reality. I am slowly experiencing a gradual shift in outlook. I know I

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Alice couldn’t stop me from taking part in the World Master Games in Auckland, 2017

 

will still find metaphorical mountains to climb and will be just fine. In the meantime, i am trying to stay as active and healthy as I can so I have the strength to face what comes – and the desire to find a new reality that will be just as fulfilling as the one I thought I would have.

So, sometime in the next 10 months – watch for the final eviction notice.  Stay tuned!

You gotta be tough to be a senior

Growing old is not for the wimpy, the weak, or whiny. Aging is tough.  It steals your dreams and ambitions and saps your energy. It is simply stinking hard work.

I don’t know how my mom has lived through it. She is 88 years young, and suffers from severe osteoarthritis. She’s had two new knees and a hip, and is way overdo for more.  But alas, a few years ago she aged out.  A victim of the system, she was passed off again and again, told to come back next year – that her pain was simply bursitis.  Never mind that the arthritis that was the root cause of it.  Month long waits for calls simply to make appointments seeped into more weeks, then months before even being called to get on the list for an appointment.  Slowly, painfully, the time leached into two years before she even was taken seriously for a replacement.  But by then it was too late. She was too old and too weak.  Those years of inactivity lead to extra weight, and more joint problems exasperated by the extra burden. Soon high blood pressure reared its ugly head and she was doomed to an endless cycle of “You’re not quite bad enough yet. Come back in 6 months and we’ll see if you are ready. Although the doctors never came out and said a flat out “no”, we all knew she was being passed over. That her quality of life was measured by standards of statistics and numbers – that younger patients would get priority in an over-stressed health care system inundated with again boomers and their parents.   Now,  well over 10 years later the new hip is now old, the other hip is totally shot, and the knees are due for updates.  She is left with increasing low back pain, a horrible lop-sided limp that creates even more imbalances and pain, and no hope for any real relief.

Yet every day she gets up, plans what she will make for dinner, does some cleaning around the house, and takes part in her many volunteer activities.  She still drives the ladies to the monthly CNIB meeting, making sure they all get at least one outing each month.  She takes part in CWL activities, making phone calls to organize things when she can’t actually do the physical work anymore. This year she sent out almost 100 Christmas cards.  She checks her Facebook regularly on her “gadget” – the Samsung tablet we bought her last year.  She still makes family dinners – and would not hesitate to prepare something for anyone who stopped by.   Each day the arthritis robs a little more of her body, but never her spirit.  I rarely hear her complain. When she does, I know she must be in agony, 0r she wouldn’t say a word.

I want to have her spirit, but not her arthritis, when I “grow old”.  But I don’t think I can grow old as gracefully as her.  I don’t think I will have the stamina to tolerate the pain, the hopelessness, and the slow, ebbing away of my body.  I already feel somewhat hopeless. I know I have to downsize my grand adventure dreams to smaller, simpler goals such as making sure I exercise every day so I can face a set of stairs without fear.  So much for hopes of long, glorious hikes in the mountains.  My goals will now be a casual, relatively painless walk around our property.

Perhaps this is the adventure of aging – learning to accept the outwardly small accomplishments that are actually extremely monumental.  Mom’s daily journey in life is far more brave than any extreme athlete who strives to climb to the top of a mountain peak, or the runner who just completed an ultra marathon.   I am starting to believe that making dinner for a large family, or completing daily household tasks, or some days, simply getting out of bed when you hurt so bad that all you want to do is stay asleep.  Or putting on a smile and not  whining all day long about every ache and pain.  Yep, I am starting to re-define strength, courage, and physical stamina.

Right now I say the words, but am not sure I have fully accepted this new reality. But I’m trying. Today, while taking part in my curling game I began to realize that I need to cherish each time I am able to slide down the ice, or throw a rock from the hack and come slightly close to making my shot.  Pretty soon the arthritic pain I feel from activity will become greater than the benefit I get from curling – or other sports.  So, I need to learn to take each stride for what its worth.  Let my body learn to remember the feeling of gliding across the ice, of being part of a team success – of just being active.  You never know when it will all evaporate.

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Hurry Hard!
10865805_10152517351573045_3805404347596828530_oSo here’s to you, Mom.  You have taught me that growing old is not for the weak of heart.   May I have even a tenth of your strength and courage as I travel down the toughest adventure ever -growing old.

 

*#$%@) to Arthritis

Up Yours Arthritis!!!  You are my worst enemy. You are a nasty, evil being. You are a slow, insidious predator, seeping into my joints, painstakingly slowly cementing them shut.  You are the quicksand – or “slowsand” of aging. You are worse than a hormonal junior high girl – on a downswing. And I should know – I am one of 7 sisters.  Trust me, there’s nothing meaner than junior high girl.

I hate you for what you are doing to my country. You are robbing our healthcare system, sweeping in with a tsunami of need from us aging boomers as we seek help to outwit you. You are forcing a legacy of debt to our children, who will eventually have to pay the bill for our care. They will struggle to cope with you, but like our grandparents and parents, they will survive too.  They will fight and fight and maybe even defeat you. If not them, then their children will find treatments that work, cures that last, and lifestyle changes that will keep you at bay.

I hate you for what you have done to my family. My husband’s knee – being eaten by you.  My father’s joy in walking and biking – being ebbed away by you.  My sister – crippled from your non-stop presence.  My mother. You have robbed her of her physical balance and strength. You have even taken her body parts. But you are cunning. You crept so slowly  that by the time she needed a new joint, she was deemed too old.  So now she spends every minute in agony. Her movements are slow and guarded, her sleep is disrupted, and her mind is clouded by pain and painkillers.

You will eventually defeat her physically, but you can’t take away her soul.  She wins there.  Even at age 88, her body racked with non-stop pain, she won’t give in to you.  You can’t beat her spirit. She still volunteers, she still cooks for her neighbours, she still makes treks up and down her stairs, no matter how long it takes her.  She won’t give into you. No way will you win.  She is going down fighting you.  In that respect, she will win. Why wouldn’t she?  She raised 7 teenage girls.  Now that’s a survivor.

Mostly, I hate you for what you are doing to me.  You are my OCD nightmare – the one that won’t go away – and step by step becomes reality.  I feel you creeping in while I sleep, coaxing my joints into immobility, cementing them shut while I rest.  I feel you trying to take all of me.  You have taken some of my mobility, and causing me to move differently, taking away some of the activities I so loved to do. You will eventually defeat me physically.  But like my mother, I won’t let you defeat me.  I will keep trying to purge you from my system. I will try natural cures, medicines, and quack cures. I will try alternative therapies, physical therapy, massage therapy, and any other kind of therapy.  I won’t quit.  I am giving you warning – I won’t let you rob me of my soul.

So up yours arthritis!  IMG_1924