Fifty is a very dangerous age. Or thereabouts. I had my own stroke just shy of fifty, a friend of mine on here had his stroke just after. We, obviously, both survived. A few years ago, one of my friends told me about his nightly visits to the hospice, where a schoolfriend of his had a brain tumour. My friend would have been about fifty, and the schoolfriend died not long afterwards. Partner, dependent kids, the lot. My best friend at university, as I was telling him about my own stroke, he responded that he had been diagnosed with MS… Others of my friends have been found to be diabetic – know the numbers, keep on top of them, and that’s a walk in the park!
In my situation, it is very tempting to look at myself and think woe is me, but at least I have a reasonable chance of improvement. Sure, it’s something that will always be noticeable to me, but not necessarily to anybody else. Funnily enough, that’s a goal – I pride myself on not really caring what people think, but that matters. It is what it is, I suppose. Maybe I’m there already in some scenarios? If you see me sipping a drink in a coffee shop, you wouldn’t know that I have trouble walking. Drinking coffee with my right hand – you wouldn’t know that’s because my left doesn’t work. Wearing my glasses? well, everybody does at my age anyway.
My theory is quite simple. That many of us have these timebombs inside us, ticking away. That our bodies can cope with abuse for so long – there were times in my twenties when I would be in the pub every night, nightclubs at weekends, at one stage I played American Football and in later years was a keen cyclist, live hard, play hard – but that sooner or later….boom! In a lot of people I’ve known, it has been around fifty. My wife lost her cousin through breast cancer earlier, but mostly…
Okay, that’s the theory. It’s not going to hold true for everyone.
In my own situation, I was quite smug. I was fit and healthy, or so I thought. I was happy that while the rest of the population was becoming obese, I was safely in lowest quarter, in terms of BMI (a kind-of height-to-weight ratio). For forty-something, that wasn’t bad. Sure, I had a couple of chronic issues, but I looked after them, right? Not right enough, as it turned out.
With hindsight, I could have done more – taken more of an interest, for a start, got to know my body a bit better. One of the big mistakes I made was to be too hands-off, not to do enough for myself, the easy stuff, and not to be persistent enough when proposed medications were ineffective. That’s a biggie – we tend not to want to bother doctors about ourselves, because they’re busy people, and the only thing wrong with us is this or that. But actually, that’s exactly why they’re there. We penalise ourselves, in a way, when maybe we should be a little more selfish.
The caring profession? Actually, the one thing it doesn’t do is care. Doctors will advise, as best they can, but ultimately they are dispassionate – we’re the ones who need to care!
Things I wish I’d done differently…