I just turned 60 years old and I have the strong need to look at my life. 60 years old does not seem “old” but, let’s face it, I am fully aware that my years ahead are going to be far less than the years I lived. I do not want to be morbid, I just need to be realistic.
Looking back, I cannot believe how fast the years have flown. It’s funny, when my children were young, I could not wait for certain milestones to happen so that life would be easier. Potty training, getting their own food in the morning so I could sleep just a little longer, staying home alone, driving. The next thing I know they are suddenly old enough to go to college and move on with their own lives. At the time of each milestone it was exciting yet felt like an eternity to occur. Now I look at these milestones and they were just a small blip in my life. The hardest turning point for me was when both kids moved out and started their own lives. Do not get me wrong, I was so happy for each of them yet it was my own breakthrough that I was entering a new stage in my own life, whether I was ready for it or not.
When I was in my 20s and 30s, my priorities were to both my family and my career. The future I envisioned and worked hard to accomplish did occur, though not necessarily the way that I thought it would. Both of my children are married, live productive lives, and make me proud daily. I finally went back to school receiving my doctorate and I became a nurse practitioner. I have worked at a few practices and have finally found the one that has encouraged me and given me all the right tools to let me practice medicine to the best of my ability. When I am ready to retire, I know I will have ended my career at the practice I was destined to retire at.
Reading this you probably think my life has been perfect. It has not. I have gone through many life changing struggles. I have had numerous health issues such as kidney cancer (cancer free now for 13 years) and inflammatory arthritis which continues to affect me daily. Though these have been difficult, my son’s health crisis changed me forever.
Halloween, 2012 my son had emergency brain surgery. He had a brain tumor that turned out to be a grade 1 cancer. His recovery was complicated by seizures. I was with him when he had his grand mal seizure and the doctors had a hard time stopping it. I almost lost him. After the grand mal seizure, even on continuous IV sedation, he had 40 small seizures in only a couple of hours. Seeing all this is etched in my brain forever.
He almost died and I was helpless. Thankfully, he is doing great now. He is married and practicing law. He continues to have brain MRIs, now only twice a year, and has been cancer free. He still takes seizure medications and has not had a seizure since 11/2012. I would never want to experience anything like that again, however, being 51 years old at that time, it did make me reflect on life’s fragility, even more so than when I was 47 years old being diagnosed with kidney cancer.
My son told me during his recovery that I had changed. I first denied it but, with more reflection, I realized I did change. How can witnessing someone you love almost die not change you? The interesting thing, though, is that this experience made me a better person. I consistently let those who I care about know how important they are to me. I write letters every birthday to my kids and grandchildren telling them how proud I am of them. I make a conscious effort to be “present” with people. I am not perfect at it, but I have been much better at expressing to my family and friends that they make a difference in my life since my son’s health crisis.
After reflecting on my 60 years, I have many realizations. I have made mistakes and I do have some regrets, who does not? Overall, life has been good and I hope I have made a positive imprint in others lives as well. I do not know what tomorrow may bring but at least I know thus far that I have tried to be the best me I could be given all my life experiences. Can you say the same?