Saturday 6 April 2013

#HAWMC Day 6: Letters

Topic: Write a letter to an older you (tell us what age you are writing to!) what do you want to ask yourself? What lesson do you want to remember? 

Dear 80-year-old Michelle,

First up I want to say “Go You” making it all the way to 80. Who knew you'd make it that far? Not me. Not most of our doctors. Though in reality they really didn't have a clue as to our prognosis and were winging it a lot of the time. Remember the good ones actually felt bad about that. The crap ones just blamed us and put us in the too hard basket. Here's hoping the good ones are rocking on and the bad ones? Well, is it wrong to wish for them liver spots the size of actual livers, bowling ball sized haemorrhoids and dentures that never fit properly and fall out when they go to pee? Does that make us a bad person? Perhaps. After all Billy Joel did say, “only the good die young”, and here we are still having fun storming the castle at 80.

Please tell me we are a completely irreverent granny, complete with bright hair and feather boa pinching the bums of all the young doctors and health care workers who come within reach. If you're not playing AC/DC loudly in your room and doing wheelies in your chair up the hallways of your assisted living facility, I'll be sadly disappointed.

Here's hoping Weirdtown is a choice and not a biological imposition. Lets face it dementia was rife in Dad's family so the odds aren't exactly in our favour. Though if we've managed 80 without a heart attack or stroke thanks to Mum's genes, I'll be pretty stoked.

So the big question. Can we still toilet alone? You and I both know this was always the bridge too far. Can't wipe my own bum, well that was never on our bucket list was it? Mind you if we are at that stage I do hope we have managed to maintain our dignity and snarky sense of humour. We'll need it. And really a bridge too far has become a bridge you crossed with style, over-sharing, and revelling in the discomfort of others, time and again over the years. No doubt you'll offer up your nethers to the wiping staff while telling a bawdy joke or three.

Remember that old guy at work who threw a handful of fragrant bodily offerings our way? Let's not do that, mkay? And unlike the old lady who unbeknownst to us, had removed her highly absorbent underwear and left a less than pleasant trail that splashed up our legs as we walked her down the hallway, lets always keep our lady parts well and truly covered by adult nappy or granny undies. Really, that's just a win for all involved.

Has the neuropathy spread as far as we always feared? Can we still walk? Did all those pharmaceuticals end up ruining our liver and kidneys? We never admitted that one to ourselves did we? We knew the risks but sometimes the benefits such as being able to function, stay upright or just make it through the day were worth it. Surely, by now the country has grown up and brought in compulsory/opt out organ donation so if we need it we wont have to wait years for a replacement.

And what about bionic bodies? If I can't be Wonder Woman I want to be all Bionic Woman, hopefully wearing the same 70's velour tracksuits as Jamie Sommers. Gosh that would solve a lot of our problems. Not so much the cerebral autoregulation issues we have but hey at least it'd be a start. Or have they gone the way of Futurama with heads in a jar. That'd be kinda cool though I'm not sure how my rampant claustrophobia would go with the whole confined in a jar idea. Not to mention the sea sickness from all that slopping around in the jar. Or maybe by then I can Borg it up. It certainly would make an aging Mr Grumpy's day if he ended up with a version of Seven of Nine on his arm.

Really whatever our physical or mental state I just hope we are still living life to the full, finding joy and happiness every day. And don't look back with regret on our life. Yes we were sick. Yes it took a lot and demanded a lot. It challenged us in ways we could never have imagined. But we kept kicking. You and I both know that was partly to spite our body. We were never going to let that sucker get the best of us no matter what it threw our way. We always gave it the best “screw you” we could and I hope we still do.

We learnt a long time ago that strength isn't easy to define. It isn't always about slaying dragons and running into burning buildings.

It's keeping going when you're exhausted and begging for relief.
It's keeping going when the medical system throws up their hands and the answers simply aren't there.
It's keeping going when we feel that all that we are is being lost or changed.
It's keeping going when we are scared and crying into our pillows at night.
It's finding and embracing a moment of joy in the middle of the storm.
It's finding unexpected freedom in what you thought was unending destruction.
It's realising in every end there really is a beginning and new possibilities abound.
It's realising that your old dreams pre-sick were limited by a lack of imagination and self-imposed boundaries.
That living a little or a lot, left of centre can be the most empowering and rewarding gift you can give yourself.
We did all that and more.

And I hope you kept on that path, because it was the right one for us.

And we made it to 80. 80! That's something to be proud of. Keep wearing those Dorothy Slippers and kicking your heels up (just be careful not to do a hip, because you and I both know all these years of Florinef have left us a little short on the whole bone density side of the ledger). Though if you do here's hoping you finally get a Dr Kovac, we are way overdue for a TV-hot doctor to feel us up.

So 80-year-old me I hope you are having a ball and that Mr Grumpy is still the silver fox that rocks your world and that the boys have had a bucket load of kids who you can terrorise when they are forced to visit weird yet cool grandma on the weekend.

Remember that you are only as old as the man that you feel. So get that hug from young hot Dr Kovac as he feels up your busted hip. Slip some tequila in your IV, slip on your fluro support hose and bust out some rocking tunes from your ipod equivalent. If you made it this far you deserve to party like it's (our pre-sick) 1999.

Just remember to be more Betty White and Mirka Morra and less Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino or Tommy Lee Jones in real life, and it should all be good.

Your almost-40 self.


  1. Thank you so much! I'm laying in hospital now, going through withdrawal and whole lot more, very down. But reading your letter made me smile so much and think about the way I think. Some changes needed! I love reading your blog but today's one was very personal to me like you you were writing on my behalf. Thanks x

  2. I don't fret about my own mortality a great deal (in the sense that I'm not preoccupied with thoughts of death, even though I've had a few close brushes with it over the years), but I do often - quite often actually - stop and wonder how long my poor state of health will grant me here on this earth.

    If we assume that nothing in the way of a tragic accident, fatal illness, etc befalls me, I really can't begin to guess how long Mother Nature would allow me keep on, keepin' on (to speak in song lyrics for a moment). The perpetual family genealogist in me take a bit of solace in the fact that three out of my four grandparents are still here (ranging in age from their early 70s to 82) and that one set of my great-grandparents both made it to about 90, but genetics can only combat so much when one's body is ravaged by major health problems and severe chronic pain day in and day out.

    All I can say is that I hope, with all my heart, that you and I both make it not only to 80, but to 100+, and that we're still rocking our blogs to our final days! :)

    ♥ Jessica

    1. I hope we get there too Jessica. I'm thinking we'd be rather feisty and rocking centenarians! It is hard to know what toll all this ill health and the meds needed to function will do to us. But all we can do is live in the here and now and enjoy whatever comes our way. So much is wasted on worrying about the future. xx


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