Isn't it amazing when we stumble upon life lessons in the unlikeliest of places?
Joe has suffered from abdominal pain -- ranging from dull to severe -- on a daily basis for several years now. Two and a half years ago he had his gallbladder removed and, just yesterday morning, I drove him to get an endoscopy as well as a colonoscopy. They were long overdue and we both knew it.
Joe has always strived to be proactive about his own health and continuously encourages me to do the same. And truthfully, I'm not as diligent as I should be. He has always preached the benefits of preventative measures when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. He even went so far as to get a second opinion when, just a few months back, a physician told him he was "too young to need a colonoscopy."
We arrived early and stepped into a waiting room scattered with, not surprisingly, much older patients. While waiting we couldn’t help but notice an attractive, boisterous, older woman chatting loudly with her much older friend. She was kindly reassuring her that “everything would be over soon,” and that the “worst part of the whole thing was over with,” as one of the requirements was not eating for 24 hours prior as well as drinking a concoction that preps the intestines for viewing. No fun. Her friend was called in shortly after we arrived so Joe and I made some small talk with her while thumbing through magazines.
Her name was Mary.
After about 15 minutes Joe was called back. I kissed him, said all would be fine and, introvert that I am, immediately averted my eyes away from Mary's glances.
This was not an effective strategy.
She was having difficulty with her new, “way-too-high-tech” iPhone and I offered help. We eventually started browsing through her photos...
She excitedly showed me several photos of her expansive doll collection. Dolls she had bought for “a steal” at antique shops, dolls she had ordered on ebay from Europe, dolls she had refurbished. You name it. Fascinating stuff.
We got to a photo of a man looking very dapper in a barbershop quartet get-up. It was Hal, her much older than her but young-at-heart 93 year old husband. I shared with her about my girlies and the genetic disposition for twins that runs in my family. She explained that Hal was a twin as well. But that his identical twin “looked his age,” and that at one point in his life he “just gave into what society told him he should act like.” I will admit, with the jubilant smile exuding from the photos, Hal did not look a day older than 70. Seriously.
She explained that Hal and her kept things fresh and exciting by going on dates regularly, being spontaneous and (gulp) “talking sexy” to one another. Too much information? Perhaps, but I’ll take it as well-intentioned advice.
She swiped to a photo of a strapping young man. It was clearly a photo she had taken from another old photo in an album. It was her son. He had passed away several years earlier. Her demeanor wasn’t sad in any way, so I asked what had happened. She quickly responded that he had died in a bad car accident, continued scrolling through pictures, and then went on to sharing sordid gossip about her next door neighbors.
I eventually worked up the nerve to ask Mary her age and, expecting to hear maybe 60 at the oldest, was visibly surprised -- jaw dropped to the floor -- when she told me she was 73. When I asked her, in all sincerity, what the trick was, so said, “You know what? It all about having a positive attitude!”
Roughly 90 minutes after Joe walked into the procedure area I was called back to see him. He was groggy but feeling good (almost too good from the anesthesia that was administered), he even joked that he'd gotten to sneak in a nice nap in the middle of the day and that he was going to schedule another colonoscopy for the following week.
The doctor came in to chat with me. Pretty routine I assumed. He said all went great but that he found a polyp where his small and large intestines meet. At that my eyes shot up to those of the doctor's. "This procedure could have very well saved his life." He explained that in a matter of time the polyp could have developed cancerous cells. My eyes welled up as I shook his hand and thanked him profusely.
Nothing has ever quite stricken more sudden fright or shock in me than the thought of losing Joe; my amazing husband, the love of my life, my best friend, the father of our beautiful daughters, my rock.
|Joe, in a daze.|
That evening I was surprised to see just how well Joe was feeling. We took a nice walk through our neighborhood, grabbed some sushi for us and a piece of salmon for the girls to try for the first time (very exciting for this Northwest girl). We went to a local park to enjoy dinner, then took turns pushing the girls in the swing, watching Ruby kick her legs in pure delight and listen to Vera sheepishly giggle at our silliness, and simply being grateful to have our health and, more than anything, have one another.
I was reminded of a couple things yesterday; a couple lessons that perhaps I had forgotten over time:
The first was that no matter how young you are, it's never too early to think seriously about your health and your future. The second was that no matter how old you are, it's never too late to reclaim and enjoy your youth.