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One never thinks consciously about ageing, but somehow it creeps up when least expected. As long as we are healthy, age does not factor in at all, but once we start to ail, even in youth, we suddenly start feeling our years.
Lately I went through some health issues which shook me up and made me recalculate many aspects of my life. Although I had regularly suffered some pretty drastic health traumas on a semi periodic basis, some of them life threatening, yet this time was the first time my whole perspective changed.
The latest issue involved two main organs that are more threatening to the quality of life than to life itself: the heart and the kidneys. With the advancement in diagnostic medicine as well as therapeutic methods life is prolonged, but sometimes unfortunately at the very high expense of the quality of said life.
In my case when I was still going through the investigative phase, when some of the results were coming in with many red flags, I suddenly found myself facing the possibility of a reduced quality of life. This was the first time I seriously considered such a possibility. Death is not a problem, we all have to go through it sooner or later. But life could be a problem. What kind of life? What quality of life? Life is so precious, and we are programmed to fight for it at any cost. But how high a cost is worthwhile? This was a question I had never posed to myself except once, very briefly, a few years back when there was a possibility that I had cancer. It turned out to be an abscess which was successfully, surgically removed. But for the few days when we were still not certain, I had to face my mortality. I very clearly told my family that to me it was the quality of life not its quantity that I wanted. I categorically refused any kind of cancer treatment and would have only palliative medication. As it turned out, this was irrelevant when the diagnosis of an abscess was confirmed and the surgery to remove my gall bladder was successfully performed.
This time the whole scenario is different. This time I am not facing my mortality, reconciling myself to meet my maker, no, this time it is much worse. I have to face the probability of a prolonged life, impaired. The extent of the impairment is still to be determined, but impaired it would be. This is the first time I come fully face to face with what is usually termed as “old age” , the betrayal of your body, when it suddenly lets you down.
This sudden realisation that the years have taken their toll on your body, and that it no longer has the ability to rise to your will or your spirit, is very frustrating and somewhat scary. I no longer have control. There are certain things that I can do and others that I cannot. Limitations are now set on my abilities that were never previously conceived, let alone realised.
I have now had a preview of what the rest of my life could be like. I am now faced with the certainty, not the fear, of what I shall probably be facing in the future. The knowledge of the ultimate betrayal of your body, the weakening of the organs, the drainage of energy, despite the mental clarity and agility. This clarity that shows you exactly what to expect.
Despite having suffered a heart attack three years ago, my heart is in good condition for my age. There is some slight damage but still functioning well. The problems I had suffered, which caused problems to my kidneys were the result of some of the medications I was taking and which needed to be adjusted. These were adjusted to a lower doze, which greatly relieved me as I do not like medication. My kidneys are now on the mend and the whole upheaval I went through turned out to be much simpler and far less traumatic than previously thought. I was given a reprieve.
The mental and emotional trauma, though, was great. I had a preview of what could, and probably eventually will happen. There is no getting out of growing old, there is no elixir for eternal healthy life, there is only the knowledge of the ultimate truth that I will grow old and that my body will grow frail and will eventually fail me.
Facing and accepting this fact need greater courage than any previous challenges in life. For this means that I will have to tap into myself for every ounce of strength to withstand the inevitable physical deterioration. I will need to muster all my patience, all my tolerance to accept whatever is dealt to me, and hope that I could live out the rest of my life with cheer and with dignity. I have no fear of death, but great trepidation of impaired life. Come what may, I hope to be able to face it and make the best of it.
After getting this preview of what my life could be I have vowed that starting right now I shall do all I can to really take care of the one and only body that God has given me, to try to minimise damaging it so it can serve me the longest possible time in the most efficient way. It is a style of life that ensures the best of health and the utmost in the quality of life. My one prayer is that when it is time for me to die, that death finds me while I am singing, dancing and enjoying the life I have.
4 October 2015