Scary Words

No matter what our ages, there are some words that just make our hearts sink. As parents of teenagers, pregnant or police officer have that impact. As older adults, it’s cancer or Alzheimer’s. This past fall, I went through that scare when the search for the cause of my sciatica revealed I had bladder cancer.
That the cancer was found, and found so early, was real luck, my doctor said. But it didn’t feel like luck; it felt like I was looking down a long dark tunnel that kept getting longer and darker. Of course, I was positive and kept stressing the bright side. Still . . .
Tests were quickly ordered and administered. This was scary too. Let’s face it, however we may describe our medical system, no one calls it “fast”, and everyone was so serious in their encouragement.
Worst of all was sharing the news with friends. The “C” word often brought out a well-meaning, but unsettling litany of tragic stories. It was like touching the mother lode of sorrow where everyone’s compassion reached out, directly toward my own deepest fears.
As it turned out, I really was lucky. Everyone at the Fletcher Allen Health Care was wonderful. A simple procedure removed the cancer. They got all of it and I didn’t even need chemo or radiation. If it hadn’t been for the sciatica and my doctor’s insistence on tests to figure out the cause, I’d still have bladder cancer, but I wouldn’t know about it yet.
Finally, it all seemed to be behind me, until an associate mentioned how wonderful it will be next year when I celebrate my first anniversary as a cancer survivor.
Wham! The best of intentions, I’m sure, but “cancer survivor”? More scary words. Of course, he was right. Having cancer isn’t like a bad tooth. Getting it out doesn’t end it. That was something I hadn’t considered and am still in the process of comprehending.
As I meet clients dealing with chronic illnesses, there is a new openness within me. I’m hearing more lately. Perhaps, I’m also a bit more cautious in how I respond. This is especially true when scary words are spoken. There is less that separates us than I used to believe and we have much more in common than I ever expected.
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident.

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About the author

Scott Funk has specialized in Home Equity Conversion Mortgage reverse mortgages for over a decade. He is a recognized Aging in Place advocate in his home state of Vermont. His monthly newspaper column Aging in Place has run for 7 years in 24 papers around the state. Scott is brings a lighthearted approach to his talks on Boomers, retirement and aging on purpose.