Growing old? Absolutely not!

Aging is a fact of life. Everyday that passes we age. The food we put in our bodies, the chemicals we put on our skin and hair, even the air we breathe can age us. Do any of us want to grow old, absolutely not! I will never regret growing old but I do not want to age.

Did you know on the average after cancer treatment a person’s body ages approximately 10 years. Approximately, so that means some age more, some less. Even after many years, the chemicals, surgery, strain, stress, and all the medications that were used to keep us alive are actually aging us. I guess it is a trade off for our lives. The not so kind souvenirs of treatment also age us. 

I personally, have neuropathy in my feet causing great pain at times. After all these years, I pretty much live with it because I do not want to take a medication that probably has more long term or even worse side effects. My joints are arthritic, I have osteopenia of the spine, and I also have a small fracture in my middle spine that always shows up in scans. So far it hasn’t bothered me physically.

Because going into surgery we knew I had Triple Negative Cancer and the BRAC 1 mutation, a radical double mastectomy was scheduled. A radial mastectomy is described as:

Radical mastectomy (American Cancer Society) 

In this extensive operation, the surgeon removes the entire breast, axillary (underarm) lymph nodes, and the pectoral (chest wall) muscles under the breast. This surgery was once very common, but less extensive surgery (such as the modified radical mastectomy) has been found to be just as effective and with fewer side effects, so this surgery is rarely done now. This operation may still be done for large tumors that are growing into the pectoral muscles.

Normally, I would have had a lumpectomy but since I had a rare and aggressive type of cancer, Triple Negative, plus the BRCA mutation, the surgeon suggested the more extensive operation. It wasn’t until the final pathology came back one week after my surgery, when we learned that I also had metaplastic cancer. That, too, is another rare and aggressive type of cancer. I am so thankful for the knowledge of a dedicated surgeon and the hand of God guiding her in my journey.

The pathology also showed an egg sized tumor which contained 87% active cancer cells waiting to explode at any minute and take my life. Both the surgeon and oncologist were pleased that she got clear margins in the tissue left on my chest and that cancer had not spread anywhere else in my body. Talk about thankful!

I have many issues from that surgery which have definitely aged me, despite not wanting to show my age. My chest now has no pectoral muscles so I have to use my back muscles constantly to hold my body upright. Many times you can see me humped over and I am not even aware, I have no chest muscles to help hold me up! I try to be conscious of the shoulder slumping. Sometimes I forget or my back muscles are tired from doing all of the work. That is aging. Poor posture can age someone. I see pictures of myself all hunched over and I am horrified, but, oh, well. It is what it is. I am alive. Everyday I do make a conscious effort to remember.

While cancer is not necessarily a death sentence anymore, the cancer patient learns to live with many new ways of life after. Nothing, I mean nothing, is ever the same after treatment. Some people have a hard time dealing with the ‘new’ life. Many families are affected and some relationships do not survive out of guilt, selfishness, pride, or dissolve for a million other reasons. Many patients cannot cope with their disfigured body and other physical changes,  along with hair loss, and the many financial and social demands made of them and they sink into horribly depressed states.

So if you are still reading this, the above paints a real, raw, and not fun cancer journey. My journey was rough, real, and raw but it was also not near as bad as it could have been. I was happy, pain free, and I was able to get out and about on my good days. I met friends for lunch, I enjoyed grocery shopping, and spending time with family and friends. But the fear of infection was real.  When my blood counts were low, I spent a lot of time isolated in my home. Those times were not fun. I tried to keep positive and happy thoughts in my head. I also carried on with the hope of my unborn grand babies. 

People act different in life situations and they age differently during those situations. Some people look amazing whatever they are going through in life. Others, like me, show each day of living and surviving, again, in looks and in my body. After bouts of serious chemo fog, I fought my mind not to age. I may be old, and I may be a grandma, but I earned each ache, pain and wrinkle. They represent  my life and I am thankful for it. Remember, growing old and aging is a privilege that not everyone gets. I am going to live and love each day! I have grand babies to love and help me live. My family is my why.❤️

Some days when I feel not so well, I walk outside. I love to feel the breeze in my hair. Not long ago I didn’t have any hair. I love to feel the warm sun caress my skin. Not everyday is sunny. I love to walk barefoot outside and feel the earth under my feet. Not everyday my feet can actually feel. Take what you have and choose to make your life happier and younger. Dwelling on bad things can definitely age one. Allow yourself five minutes to miss what you lost, be sad, scream, or whatever. Five minutes, no more. Choose to be young at heart and happy! Remember some of our best days haven’t even happened yet! I will never regret growing old. 

Until next time 💕

Pam 

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