Friday, July 18, 2014

What Nobody Tells You about Getting Older

I've become expert at ignoring the things I don't wish to acknowledge. It's a gift.

For a brief time, I'll set aside this gift to share another list of things that nobody tells you. Getting older is both amazing and frustrating, and someone should talk about the following that I had to discover for myself.

The good:
  • Some indulgently mature adults speak more freely and confidently than their younger colleagues. This often happens because they no longer care what others think of them...which can be awesome for the more mature adult, but the situation may vary for those around him/her depending on his/her level of pomposity and rational thought. Ok, so I may have been thinking of someone in particular as I wrote this...
  • Accumulating life experience can give an elevated level of confidence in making decisions. The well worn phrase, "Been there, done that," illustrates this confidence while annoying the young. Double bonus points!
The marginally good:
  • Society's expectations change as one matures.  Loan officers no longer expect that you'll default on your loan or wreck your new car. Your friends no longer expect you to stay out partying until 3am on a weeknight. The both up- and downside...attractive young adults no longer expect you to flirt with them.
The sometimes good, sometimes not:
  • As the body ages, adults begin to sleep less. Whether this phenomenon is good or bad may depend on any number of factors such as health, well being, stress, happiness, or addiction to Twitter.
The odd:
  • Think back to times when colleagues complain about an annoying song they have stuck in their heads. And it gets stuck in yours. And then music accompanies the remainder of your day. Get used to it. Embrace it. It gets more insidious. 
  • Hair will begin to grow in places where it has never grown before. Not light, thin peach fuzz. Oh no. It is dark, thick, and often curly. Related: you'll need to buy specialized gadgets to cut or shave it, and get really, really good with using a mirror to observe the areas particularly hard to see or reach.
The not so good:
  • Your skin will begin to look as if an alien landed on it. Random dark splotches. Dry patches. Wrinkles. Saggy parts. Don't get me started...
  • Grey hair. Who looks good in grey hair? About two humans, that's who.
  • Old eyes. This phrase is much too gentle for the level of frustration this affliction causes. To need glasses in order to read any damn thing gets old. Fast. Much faster than the aging process.
  • Your feet. They get wider. And hurt more easily. And your shoe options get uglier and uglier until you find yourself in the Grandma section.
  • Bowel movements. Either too often, or not often enough. And you begin to talk about it with your contemporaries. Good grief, what is happening?
  • Denial. Oh wait, that's good...all things here considered.


Monday, July 14, 2014

What Nobody Tells You

Someone should write a book or a website titled, "What Nobody Tells You," update it every month, and make it required reading. Including a version with millions of subjects, searchable based on the user's current needs.

Ok, that may be a bit ambitious. However, over the last couple of years, I've often wished for such a thing.

For instance, the subject that would have helped me the most recently?

What nobody tells you about radiation treatments in 6 easy paragraphs:

  • When breast cancer requires weeks of radiation treatments, forget about modesty. You will have to expose yourself to male and female technicians on a daily basis. They will "adjust" you in whatever contraption or position is needed for the beams of radiation to hit the same areas at the same angle every single day.
  • You'll get tattoos, whether you want them or not. Single dots of grey ink that look so unnatural that, although they are the size of a mole or freckle, no one will mistake them as such. These are used to help position your body and your breast for treatments every day.
  • Radiation burns your skin and it will peel and itch, sometimes for months after treatments have finished. Those cute little sundresses with slim straps or lower necklines may have to wait until you heal and your skin normalizes. Like, until next summer.
  • A few weeks into treatments, you'll notice a tiredness that takes over your life by small degrees until getting out of bed in the morning feels overwhelming. You'll wake up feeling exhausted, and the fatigue gets more insidious as the weeks of treatments progress. When you first notice this side effect, the weekend off of treatments will help you to rejuvenate. By the following weekend, the cumulative result of the treatments will simply wipe you out. Need to work a full week? Good luck.
  • And the aching. It seems to originate from the sunburned skin, but that's an illusion. It feels that way because the sunburn is worse in the areas where the treatment is more intensely aggressive and the tissue damage is greatest. Painkillers will take the edge off of the ache, but don't try to sleep on that side or the pain will wake you...if you are able to get to sleep at all.
  • Don't celebrate too much when the treatments are done. The pain and exhaustion are far from over. It can take months to regain normal strength and vigor. And the aching remains and can worsen due to triggers as simple as sitting at a desk for long periods or strenuous walking.

I can only speak from my own experiences. From what I'm told, I got off easy because I didn't need to be hospitalized. Nor did I have some of the more intense side effects such as mouth sores, digestive problems, and unsteadiness and difficulty keeping my balance. For this I'm immensely thankful.

I'm also grateful that I didn't need to have chemotherapy. I'm keenly aware of how much more difficult my treatment could have been.

I'm not sure what subject I would have liked to have known next, on the list of things that nobody tells you. So many subjects come to mind. Perhaps I'll explore a few in future posts.

For now, I'll think I'll just go find some ibuprofen, take a nap and look forward to the day when I can wake feeling refreshed. To think that I used to take that for granted.

Thanks for reading!