An unused bicycle collects cobwebs

Growing Old or Growing Smarter

Growing up, my stepdad always seemed so old. I imagined he was born an old man. And the funny thing is, it seemed liked everyone else saw him as old as well. I remember him once getting a t-shirt that simply said “Older than dirt”. He had a sign on his desk that said “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance”. Once as a teenager, for a brief moment, I thought I was a decent racquetball player. I knew my stepdad played all the time, but I challenged him to a game. I figured there was no way I could lose to the old guy. He absolutely destroyed me, with minimal effort. Lesson learned.

I was 49 when diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I had been healthy my whole life. I rode my bike 20 miles roundtrip every day to and from work. I felt great. Then myeloma hit and just driving to work became a chore. I made it my mission to someday ride to work again. It took a few years, but I was able to make that ride again. I recently turned 59 and my commuter bike sits dusty in the garage. I stopped working a few years ago, it just became too difficult to work and stay feeling good. And I’m not so sure I could even make that ride now.

"I tell people I feel like I'm 89"

Sometimes if I take a deep dive into my own psyche, I find some irony in my constant good-natured ribbing of my stepdad for being old, to now me feeling like a super old man. I’m sure he was younger than when I challenged him to racquetball than I am now. My myeloma is under control right now. My monthly immunotherapy and daily chemo pill and steroids have my numbers at their lowest since diagnosis. That’s great. I look ok, and folks are often surprised that a) I have cancer and b) I’m 59. I tell people I feel like I’m 89.

I walk 5-8 miles every day. But I’m super slow. Some days, my legs feel like anchors. I was getting worried about this. So, we ran a whole series of tests and discovered there isn’t much else wrong with me aside from myeloma. It’s just that ten years of blasting toxicity into my body is taking its toll. And I think my mind is really fighting reality. I ask myself often why I can’t do the things I used to. It’s particularly frustrating.

I still want to enjoy life

I will say that one of the many benefits of long walks, is it gives me a chance to think and self-talk and evaluate things. Kicking and screaming I’ve come to realize I better come to grips with slowing down and getting older. If not, I’m going to be a miserable SOB to be around. My wife gave me a shirt recently that says “Senior Discount Please”. I was embarrassed to wear it at first. But now I wear it proudly. I get a little off balance when walking at times, and I am considering at some point investing in a nice walking stick, just to be safe.

I’ve also been trying to find to inspirational quotes that might help me make the mental transition. I discovered an essay on Old Age by the ancient Roman politician Cicero. In it, he writes: It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not... poorer, but is even richer.

This really struck home to me. I still want to achieve great... or good... things in life. I still want to laugh and live and enjoy life. But I guess I need to do it more smartly and slowly. Acceptance with a healthy dose of denial. I’ll get there. I’d love to hear from others what they use as motivating tools or quotes.

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