What’s The Scariest Fact of Life?

My sister Shelley went to the wake tonight of a former colleague’s husband, who died of lung cancer yesterday. The man was diagnosed with stage 4 of the horrific disease only a few months ago. When I emailed Shelley to inquire how her friend was holding up, she responded: “She said her husband is ‘now out of pain.’”

One of the most difficult things about maturing (I hate the word aging), at least for me, is facing my mortality.

It actually gave me comfort to read that line and I emailed Shelley back, “No one should have to live with terrible pain that is going to kill them anyway. The mental anguish alone is bad enough. I am always grateful that daddy’s cancer wasn’t physically painful [our dad died of melanoma in 1988, when he was 69 years old]. Seeing him suffer like that would have been horrendous.

“If I’m ever in bad pain from cancer I will make sure to take so many pain killers all at once that I will die.”

One of the most difficult things about maturing (I hate the word aging), at least for me, is facing my mortality. I don’t want to be morbid, but it’s hard to ignore the subject of death when more and more people I know are getting sick and, yes, dying. And many of them aren’t octogenarians or nonagenarians; they’re decades younger, some in their fabulous fifties.

When I hear about young people, like the 40-year-old actor, Paul Walker, who lost their lives after taking needless risks, I am bewildered by their motivations. Doesn’t life bring us enough excitement, and normal risks, without having to seek pointless, and perilous, thrills?

As we approach a new year, my FOFriends, I hope that you all will take good care of yourselves, physically and mentally, so that you can live the best lives possible.

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  • Sally Jardon

    You really are on point with this post. Not only are we faced with out mortality but we are also faced with the knowledge that we won’t be able to accomplish our goals in the amount of time we have left. This leads one to feel anxious about trying to prioritize our dreams. How does one do that? Have a wonderful holiday season. Sally J

  • A. Reese

    My mom, who just turned 80, isn’t in pain and has no physical health issues. It’s worse – she’s in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and requires care 24/7. Besides no longer recognizing her family, she is unable to speak or walk. We don’t really know what is going on in her mind. She’s been totally robbed of her golden years.

    Sometimes we see a spark in her eyes when she’s looking at something in a magazine that seems to be stirring a memory of happiness during her past, but quickly she will bring the harsh reality into focus again by trying to eat the picture.

    Losing control of your mental and physical facilities, and your dignity and personality, is far worse than experiencing pain.

    • Jan

      I agree with you. I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s. And there is no “out” like taking an overdose of pain meds because one does not have the mental capacity to even do that. I would love to see end of life “options” discussed as well as discussions for alternative pain control such as medical marijuana. The medical profession has danced around these issues for decades and the government picks up where they leave off. It is time we took control out of everyone else’s hands and placed it squarely in our own.

    • Good morning, A. Reese,

      Your line “we don’t know what is going on in her mind” is something that always troubles me about our lack of true knowledge about the disease. I agree with you completely that Alzheimer’s is worse than pain, so I guess the headline should have been “what’s the second scariest fact of life?”

      As Jan comments, there is no out, like taking an overdose of medication, because you don’t have the mental capacity to do it. If I am diagnosed with Alzheimer’s some day, I do not intend to wait until I’ve completely lost my mind. I am going to end my life after the diagnosis. Alzheimer’s truly scares me. Geri

    • Sally Jardon

      Debra, it must be terrifying to be starting a new chapter at 60. Somehow, I believe that you can do it and do it successfully. My grandmother use to say that it was important to be careful what you wished for because you probably would get it. Through the years I have begun to realize that we get what we manifest, whether the things we focus on are positive or negative. I will err on the side of the positive. You are woman, you can prevail.

  • Debra S

    I’m scared of being widowed. And so poor. And it”s going to happen. I’m 60 now and suddenly I have to go find some work. I mistakenly thought my husband was “going to take care of everything” because I was taught to let the husband be the head and in charge. Well, I learned that sometimes a wife should just take charge of everything and have her own money. I will be at the mercy of my children in my old age.

  • joyce

    I am so sorry for your losses.I too lost my wonderful mom, who was my best friend,suddenly,and I do not know if I will ever get over it.Also ,my beloved dog,who has seen me through many sad days ,is failing.Just take things one day at a time.You are in my thoghts and now my prayers.

  • maxie

    I am about to endeavor a scary change in my life. My husband and I sold our business and now there where be no income except social security. How do you live on that. He is 76 and has prostate cancer and I am 62 and a small bowel transplant recipient. I also live with complications. Now let’s be realistic. Where are we going to get jobs. Do we end up on welfare, food stamps and Medicaid at this point in our lives. How sad and scary. No pensions, no income, nothing to fall back on. Just my faith in God.

  • Becky

    I believe many of us “boomers” are in the same boat. In June 2013, I was diagnosed with CLL and I was devastated. I have no symptoms and continue with ongoing monitoring…..very scarey. “I took care of myself my entire life…how could this happen” was my attitude. I reached out to a psychologist I work with and I felt a bit better. My husband has been great and keeps me strong so in that respect I am lucky. I agree that a support group really works and would be interested if such a group was formed. Thank you for listening

    • Hi Becky,

      You are so right. We all are in the same boat. Few of us will sail through our lives untouched by one crisis or another. You are so fortunate to have a supportive husband. Would you be open to writing about CLL for the site? If you are, send me an email geri@faboverfifty.com and I will give you a list of questions to address. The more we all know about health related issues that can affect us, the better equipped we’ll be to deal with them. We will let you know when we have something firm to discuss about a support group. Where do you live?

      Fondly, Geri

  • Kat K.

    Wonder if we could do some kind of online support system amongst ourselves? I’m sure others that read your blog feel the same way as Marilyn. I know I myself feel scared sh–less of what the future will bring for me! My only child has passed on, I’m divorced, parents gone, much older sister with health issues, cancer for me last year. I can’t even begin to think what’s going to happen to me!

    • Hi Kat,

      I think you have a wonderful idea and would like to think how we can do it effectively. Can you send me your email geri@faboverfifty.com so we can brainstorm together. Where do you live?


    • A. Reese

      I can feel your fear as I read your post and it saddens me. I can certainly relate albeit my circumstances are very different.

      I never wanted to have children and took every precaution to avoid getting pregnant. I never thought I’d ever grow old alone. One by one, I lost my family. I still cry when I think of my sister and it’s been 8 years since she died of cancer. Her son was 15 at the time, so now I take care of him – a child I didn’t plan for.

      But I’m thankful for my opportunity and we’ve been blessed in many ways. Although I questioned my faith when things were at their worst, I know now that we are being watched over. Each of our good deeds has been rewarded and it gives us continued hope for our future. As Ernest Hemingway wrote, “I am the master of my life; I am the captain of my soul”.

      • Hi A. Reese,

        Taking care of a sister’s child is one of the greatest things acts we can do in our lives. I would have done the same for my two sisters and will still watch over my grown nephews if anything happens to their mothers.

        At least your sister was spared the anguish of knowing what would happen to her son when she died.

        Bless you.


  • Marilyn

    The scariest thing for me right now is being alone and the feeling of helplessness. I lost my Mom a few years back. I never got over it and this past year my 19 year old kitty Wilfred died. He was like my child. Then on May 31st of this year I found out my husband of the past 40 years had cancer. He died a horrible death within 17 days after we fond out. I am totally lost and my heart hurts so much.

    • Hello Marilyn,

      I am so sorry for your losses and your pain. Grief can be so overwhelming. Would you consider joining a group that deals with grief? It can be wonderful to talk to others who are experiencing the same lost feelings.


    • Jan

      I am so sorry for your losses. That is a lot to deal with. I do hope you are able to find a support system within your community. Please don’t be afraid to reach out. I am certain here are many people who would love to help you with your journey if they just knew how much you are struggling. Warmest Regards