Sunday, April 10, 2016

On Mortality -- Have I Lived Too Long Already?

I've found out quite a lot about my relations and ancestors over the last couple of years, one thing being that I don't descend from a particularly long-lived line. Not at all.

Some examples:

Sister (b. Apr 1933- d. Jan 1993) (59)
Brother (b. Aug 1935- d. Oct 1972) (32)
Mother (b. Nov 1911- d. Feb 1987) (75)
Father (b. Jul 1901- d. Jan 1969) (67)

Maternal Grandfather (b. Sep 1878- d. Dec 1916) (38)
Maternal Grandmother (b. Jul 1889- d. Oct 1941) (52)

Paternal Grandfather (b. Apr 1869- d. Sep 1941) (72)
Paternal Grandmother (b. Sep 1875- d. Jan 1940) (64)

Average age at death for this group: 57 (point) something.

Lots of aunts and uncles died relatively young (one in infancy, others at 14, 40, 54, 62, 64, 69.)

One aunt lived to age 90, so there is that.

When I was young, I was convinced I wouldn't live past 30; strangely, when I reached 30 and was still going strong, I thought Death was stalking me at every turn. Quite a few friends passed on in the '80s and '90s, so many that few of the people I was close to when I was younger are left alive today.

I'm quite a survivor compared to them.

Interestingly in the first group above, my mother is the longest lived, though not all that long-lived in
the overall sense. She suffered from emphysema after a lifetime of smoking, and she died from its complications.

My father died from an untreated melanoma. According to those who knew him at the end, he had lost interest in living and refused to have the cancer treated when it might have made a difference.

He was younger at his death than I am now.

My sister died of an embolism after knee surgery following injury at the prison where she worked. She was knocked to the floor and smashed both knees against a table-leg during a prisoner take down, injuries requiring the surgery from which she wouldn't recover. She suffered from lupus for the last 20 years or so of her life, and she was sometimes in extreme pain because of it. She was 59 when she died.

I'm not sure what my brother's cause of death was. But I've learned enough about his condition to understand that he was in pretty bad shape physically for most of his short life. He couldn't stand or walk on his own until he was nine or ten years old, and he likely suffered from seizures and paralysis for most if not all of his life. I suspect that's what ultimately led to his death. He was 32.

My mother's father was killed in a rail-yard incident when he was 38.

Her mother died of stomach cancer -- which wasn't treated or wasn't treated properly -- when she was 52.

My father's parents both died of heart failure. His father at age 72 (pretty good, eh?). His mother at age 64.

This is not a record of long life among my immediate relatives, and I'm now actually older than all of them except my mother and paternal grandfather.

So. Have I lived too long already?

I'm not completely incapacitated (yay!) but I see so many things I wanted or intended to accomplish that I probably will never be able to do. It's dispiriting to say the least. Ms. Ché is concerned for fear that I might become paralyzed myself. That seems unlikely as long as this RA condition is controlled, but you never know.

I haven't heard anything from the specialist I'm being assigned to by my family practice physician. The medications I'm taking (diclophenac 50mg and prednisone 20mg) are partially effective against pain and inflammation. I take diclophenac twice a day, and it seems to be between 0% and 15% effective (down from 70-80% effective initially.) When the pain becomes too much -- like it wakes me from a sound sleep or comes on suddenly in several joints -- I take one prednisone tablet which can be effecrive for 24 to 36 hours if I'm lucky. The prescribed dosage is three a day, but I'm told not to take it for more than five days running,  I'm limiting my intake as much as I can consistent with being relatively pain free most of the time. In fact, it's just 24 hours since I took a prednisone, and the pain is coming back in  my hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders -- and soon, knees.

So I'll take another one to control the pain and contact my doctor next week to see whether I'm taking too much.

As for having lived too long already... I may bring that up too....

[Note: I worked on this post for almost a week. It's become more and more difficult for me to sit and type for any length of time.]


  1. ¿Que Pasa, Vato Loco?


    I have felt an empathy, yet I have been unable to compose my thoughts in a sympathetic way. Déjame simplemente construír mis pensamientos en una manera natural.

    When I read the news, I was rather shocked and horrified mostly because I had experienced the symptoms first-hand. My doctor of more than twenty-five years was initially quite perplexed and told me a story of a man whom he had diagnosed with palindromic or episodic myalgia. He told me about a patient of his who had experienced these debilitating symptoms from time to time, yet would return to a normal pattern of existence after some period of time had elapsed. This in a certain way mirrored my own experience of having dealt with an extreme disability, everything in-between and subsequently, occasionally feeling quite normal again.

    This all occurred the winter of 2012-2013. I also endured a type of scleritis of my eye that spring of 2013. All of this was completely unexplained and not anticipated. The eye surgeon took a special interest in my problem, which I had attributed to getting a chill by walking along the cold beach between Scripps and Black's without sufficient warm clothing.

    It turned out that I had suffered from a type of metal poisoning, or metallosis, relating to metal wear from my hip implant poisoning my blood. I think that the poisonous metal was titanium. My hip implant had been billed as the latest and greatest in 2009. So superbly polished to a perfect finish that no metal could ever wear off of it and enter my bloodstream. It became the subject of an enormous class-action lawsuit. Not everyone who had a bad implant fared as well as did I. But it was proved that my implant had worn down in four years and the metal had entered my bloodstream.

    I had a revision surgery in 2013. Has not been a problem since. I didn't even know that I had been limping since 2012. I thought that everything was okay.

    The worst thing that ever happened to me was during the winter of 2012-2013. I was still working as an activities director at a facility along 450 linear feet of beachfront property in downtown La Jolla. I played the piano and sang old swing tunes as part of my ministry. I had had more and more difficulty standing up and sitting down. The stairways had become increasingly difficult to handle. It had become a problem to wrestle with my power steering to steer my truck.

    One day, it finally got so bad that I really couldn't fake it and play my singalongs and "Name that Tune" games with the elderly. I sort of gave it up and fled. No one really thought anything the worse for it because they all knew that I was loving what I was doing. They knew that if I gave up one day, I must have been sick. I managed to drive my car home with some difficulty. I was in so much pain. I remember just barely wobbling out into my beloved back yard with the help of the cane and perhaps the walker that had been part of my recovery from the initial hip implant in 2009 and simply stopping to balance on my walker and look around my garden. I could barely stand up. I just stood there resting on my walker and starting to cry.

    The condition went away without any treatment, but after I had the poisonous implant and pseudo-tumor removed in 2013, I was convinced that my palindromic myalgia was but another symptom of my metal poisoning.

    No matter how well you respond to the anti-inflammatory drugs, there is no better option for long-term pain management than opiates.

    1. Well, Junior, that's quite a story. You've been through much worse and more persistent problems than I have, and it's clear to me that you've handled it amazingly well. Especially so given the danger that implant represented.

      This situation hit me harder than I thought it would, partly because I had so little idea what was going on. I feel like I've whined way too much about it!

      Meanwhile, thanks for sharing how you got through.

  2. Now that I have that off of my chest, what I really meant to say is that I have enjoyed being your bloggy friend these ten years. You have a gift for journaling and journalism. Mrs. Junior has always enjoyed dropping by and reading your posts. All of us come from very different upbringings, different locales and even different genetic makeups, yet we share enough in common that it is important to be friends.

    Take comfort in the spirituality that is New Mexico. Never give in to despair but live on in hope and strength. God is seeking such as thee.

    1. Thanks for that.

      "The spirituality that is New Mexico." Yes, indeed. It's given me so much for so long. I still have some to give back, too.