The day in the cage begins. I do not look in the mirror because “she” is always there. There are others here, too. There is the ancestor who gave me the widow’s peak. She is peppy and animated. There is Uncle Arthur who gave me arthritis in strong dosages. There are those who have given me bits and pieces of their minds, their hearts and their souls, and I thank them. There is the one who gave me feistiness. The one who gave me beginnings of macular degeneration sits in the corner and says he is sorry, but take it or try to leave it. There are a number of ancestors with other attributes to share, but all of them on my father’s side shared myopia. There is a little bowl legged lady with a bandaged left knee who shared with me the details on why I waited in line for my knee replacement. There are several tiny people with degenerative discs and terrible back pain from time to time. They share the spotlight.
Many in this Cage of Old Age have had some form of cancer in some designated part of his or her body. My doctor asked me if I wanted to have a test to see if I have the marker for cancer. Is he kidding? I am standing in line for it already, hoping that when I get to the head of the line they have run out of the product and ask me to come and stand in line another day.
A lovely lady sits very elegantly quiet in the cage and is always winking and smiling at me. She says she loves me, but is sorry to tell me I most probably have the marker for Alzheimer’s. She says she hopes it misses me and I tell her I hope she is right. She is very shy. She is my mother. I am very shy.
My cage of old age is becoming more and more crowded. In comes a blustering middle-aged man and says, “ I died of my disease, but think my disease is ancient history.” Pemphigus, the blistering of the skin is alive and well in this 21st Century I tell him and there is a genetic disposition for this disease. I have cut and pasted his exact form: Paraneoplastic pemphigus is a rare disease that is distinct from pemphigus, but shares some features of it. It occurs in people with certain types of cancer, including some lymphomas and leukemia’s.
This man is my grandfather and he tells me to duck if I see it coming. He thanked me for seeking out his burial site and bringing the cousins to see him.
In my Cage of Old Age there are four men who are my uncles and have fought and died of various lymphomas. They have congregated and speak loudly and animatedly about a property on Third Street. The men include a lovely vivacious woman, My Aunt M., who died of Pancreatic cancer. She volunteers important information about the Third Street Property.
There she is, my grandmother with the rounded face and rosy red cheeks, smiling and nodding. She has assured me that I have only a 4% chance of having a heart attack and a clot floating around, finding a home in her heart caused hers.
There she is, Auntie S. She is such fun, dropped bladder, Alzheimer’s and all. There are those who died of autoimmune diseases. They have time to tell their stories. There is Grandpa L. who suffered and succumbed to emphysema.
So what are you waiting in line for? Do you need a test to tell you which line to stand in? I don’t think so. I think you know. Why get a definite diagnosis for a disease you are standing in line for and another sneaks in and gets you first? Why even think about it? Got it? Let yourself out of the cage. Give the others a kiss goodbye for now. Go out and feel some joy.