Here I am sat by the river in Dalyan as the sun sets, in a couple of hours it will be a week since I arrived back in my home from home. The weather for the first few days was pretty normal for the season, now it is warming up again and temperatures of close to 40C have been forecast.
From the title of this post astute readers will have realised that there are two anniversaries to notice, both are significant in differenet ways. The reaching 60 years is considered by society to be one of those big important birthdays. I am unsure why 40 and 60 have such a significance whilst 50 does not. 30 is a biggy whilst 20 is not such a big one. When I was growing up your 21st still had signifcance, now I think it is more that 18 is the significant one, well in the UK at least. So here I am at the grand old age of 60 and retired, the later being something I was not expecting a few years ago. I am officially a year into retirement but due to the collarbone saga it only feels like I am 6 months into it, the months before felt like being off sick still.
I guess I should be reviewing my life at 60, but after the cancer it seems that reaching 60 is not such an important thing, living 3 years after the diagnosis seem a much bigger achievement, though one that is down to others more than me. All I did was go for the treatments, do the physio and speech therapy exercises and take all the many meds I was given.
In many ways it is not possible to separate the celebration of reaching 60 or 3 years, which is why I decided on the above title. Both are worthy to celebrate and yet in many way both are arbitary periods of time to celebrate, the birthday, socially constructed to be important, the cancer survival more arbitary and probably more about my need to mark my survival for 3 years and in fact the anniversary of the treatment ending is the ones my oncologist and ENT surgeon see as more important. For me though my birthday and the diagnosis are entwined, partly because of closeness to each other on the calender and partly due to being here for my birthday after the diagnosis.
So what did I do for my birthday, well very little besides being sent lots of birthday messages and a few friends in Dalyan wishing me happy birthday in person. I deliberately had not arranged anything, choosing instead to have a day doing things I like and going to places I liked. So lunch was in a favourite restaurant outside Dalyan, with a lovely walk there and back. Dinner was in a favourite restaurant in town close to the river. I did have a bit of a celebration on Saturday night, a few days later when a friend made me a cake as a suprise, which was shared with a few people I knew. I really didn’t want to celebrate on the day and would have hated having a party and being the centre of attention. I may or possibly should say might, arrange something once I get home.
What have I been doing in Dalyan I am sure you aren’t asking. But in case any of you are I can tell you not a great deal. I am taking the occasional photograph, doing a bit of gentle walking about and one longer walk on the other side of the river to Çandır and the harbour there. I am reading and sitting by the river, chatting with people I know around town and generally having a relaxed and chilled time. Today I have suffered from a bout of fatigue and I am not sure why, as I had not pushed myself over the last few days. I suppose it is just one of those occasional dips I sometime have and need to accept as being a part of post treatment me. Fortunately they are getting less frequent and I don’t usually hit me as hard as they did.
So here I am 3 score years into my life and hoping for at least another score of years of healthy and active life. If I don’t get them, well what will be will be. Like all of us my life has been full of the ups and downs we all experience but the main thing is that I am now enjoying life and feel very fortunate to still be here, able to do many things I want to do and have a future to look forward to, whether it is a short one or a longer one of bonus time. When I retired a little over a year ago, people were very kind to me, telling me that I had made a difference to many people lives through my career, which was good to hear. I don’t know that the next phase of my life will bring, I would hope that in some small way that I can have a similar postive effect on others as I have so far and to this end I will be seeking out voluntary work and possibly some paid work over the next few years. My life is good and I have plenty of good bits to notice and I hope you take the time to notice the good bits in your own lives, because when you do, the tough times we all experience seem a little bit easier to bear. This postive attitude I believe helped me recover better, suffer less from ongoing side-effects than my treatment team expected and survive longer. Surprisingly there is research that does inidcate cancer survivors who are more postive do better, so looking on the brightside is good for you.
And on this positive note I am going to end this post with my catch phrase, “life is better when you notice the good bits” and remember smiling is contagious, when you smile you feel better and others smile back and feel better and then as they go about their day they hopefully spread the contagion.