Things Become Different

I had my 2nd radiation Oncology appointment this morning. This time it was to take a CT scan to identify the places they will use to aim the high energy x-rays. I have sharpie maker targets just below my sternum, and on each side about half way between my hip & my armpit. I go back there next Friday so they can double check the positioning and then tattoo those target marks. My first tats! Hopefully my last too. I’ll find out more about the chemo that I’ll be getting in parallel with the radiation next week. I begin the treatments on Monday, July 13. They should last until mid-August, and I plan to take another 2-3 weeks off afterwards to recuperate before going back to work.

I didn’t really think much about my long term viability leading up to this. Sure, the odds are steep against me but I feel fine and we were at least successful keeping it at bay, even though I was starting to feel the side effects of the chemo. My thoughts started changing about the time when we decided to switch to radiation therapy. I learned that I would be down for at least 7-8 weeks when counting recovery time. I learned about how I’d feel, maybe. I looked at what I could do after that treatment. So far I’ve had 2 months of down time for serious medical treatments every year since I was diagnosed! Who knows what’s next? I finally began to think about the impact on the other parts of my life with this kind of thing happening on an ongoing basis.

If I am really lucky (10%? 20%?) I’ll kick the cancer and not have any more recurrences or new cancers show up elsewhere. If I fall into most of the rest of the known outcomes I’ll be pretty much free of cancer for somewhere between 2 and 10 years and then something new would break out and I’d start a whole new cancer journey. Other than Ruth Bader Ginsberg I haven’t seen anyone go much further than 10 years or into their 80s.

I’ll be 80 in 14 years. It’s hit me how short that time is. I look at most of the people in my family who go past 80 and I’m not too impressed with their quality of life. I sure wouldn’t want those outcomes. I get bored too easily. I need stimulation, company, challenges, interesting stuff to poke at. I don’t need the activities at managed care facilities. I don’t need to spend the rest of my days being patched up and maintained at minimum cost. Having gone through my finances it’s not too likely I could afford much care by that age anyway. Might as well live well while I can.

What I do know is that from the end of that radiation therapy the clock for my fun times will be ticking. I feel like I’ll be lucky to stay active for the next 14 years, but that’s all the time I think I’ll have, again only if I’m really lucky. Then I ask myself, why the hell am I still banging away at work? Yes, I like it most of the time, I like the people I work with, as well as the company I work for. It’s not my time though. I’m not going after all those quests that I’ve put off for decades. I can barely remember many of them. Or maybe I can actually volunteer my mad skillz to some entity that is doing something good for others in the world without charging them. Up until now I have been busy doing what I was supposed to have been doing; making a living for me and my family, and since the grrls grew up I’ve been working for me and my retirement.

I do have a retirement nest egg. Life will be a little more sparse than now but now it’s been pretty cushy so it will be OK. Of course there’s very little room to handle many kinds of risks, meaning that while I think I can fund our lives with that nest egg there are plenty of things that could shorten our independence. The little banker in my head would much rather have twice the nest egg I have now, but no matter how hard I work, if I stay with it until I’m 70 which has been my loosely thought out plans in the past, I never would be able to double that package in that remaining time. But again, here I am chopping up my life with treatments and spending most of my spare time working on stuff that is not mine.

I’ve concluded that it’s time for me to retire. Right now I’m targeting the end of this year. This scares me.

So much to do to prepare! I need to sell off or give away a ton of stuff I’ve been dragging around for a long time. My wonderful motorcycle, the Ducati, It’s gotta go. I haven’t ridden it in over a year. Same with my touring bicycle. It’s a vintage bike now and while it handles and rides as well as any bike made today I haven’t gotten on it in over 15 years. There’s a ton of other things too. All have to go. We’ve accumulated too much stuff.

We rent our place now. It’s bigger than we need but it has a fenced yard and high speed internet. Our dogs need a yard and our brains need high speed internet. We can do fine in a smaller house as long as there’s those things in place. It’s pretty much impossible to buy a house in most of the greater Seattle area. My nest egg isn’t that big, and it is dumb to make payments on a mortgage if you’re living off savings, so it’s got to be way out of town. I can’t accept living without dogs either so that yard has to be part of the deal. I have to do this to make the retirement work…somehow. I also really should get that deal done as close to my last day at work as possible, because of that pesky rent.

Ak! and my friends! They’re mostly in the Seattle area. Sure we’ve got lots of friends out there in the rest of the world but not as many as here. I can make new friends but only if I can mingle with people, you know, like at a good coffee shop. Another criterion to fulfill. Neither Melissa or I believe we’d be very happy in a community of conservatives. Hard core rural right-wing nonsense is fraught with risk. We don’t want to spend the rest of our days in a hostile community.

I have a lot of professionals to consult and a radiation/chemo program to follow all the way into September, all in the midst of this pandemic that I’m ridiculously at risk with. Nothing like some stress. Yeah I sure could use it.