Thursday, November 8, 2007

Birthday -- Life Expectancy

Today is my 72nd birthday. Even I can't believe it, for inside I still feel like a 35 year old, which I consider to be the ideal age. No I don't want to be 20 again, or even in my twenties. For me, to be stuck in a Groundhog Day scenario, recycling from 35 to 55, would be perfect.

However today it seems appropriate to me to reflect on a rather serious subject as well as to enjoy the celebration. That topic is life expectancy.

For some years I have been saying rather jokingly to people who buy me gifts for whatever occasion, "Don't buy me anything I have to dust." Well of course this doesn't refer to books, which I am only too happy to dust or move around from here to there, usually stopping to peruse them as I do.

I don't know if, in the back of my mind, I was already thinking that maybe I wouldn't necessarily have so long to enjoy them or that I frankly had too much stuff already. But the former thought seriously began to cross my mind when we had to put our beloved dog Cleo to sleep several years ago.

The "old scientist", who is not quite the dog person that I am, announced that we would have no more dogs. Of course he had said that the previous time when our dog had died, fifteen years before, but I just quietly ignored him and Cleo arrived in our lives and he loved her just as much as I did. Naturally, when she did anything undesirable, she reverted from our dog to my dog.

I knew that I could do the same thing again, but I started to think more carefully about it this time. Each of the four dogs in my life have lived for 14 or 15 years. That could be the length of the commitment you have to be prepared to make when you have a dog. Suddenly I began to think about whether I actually had that much time left.

As a female, my life expectancy is around 86 years, statistically speaking. So perhaps I wouldn't be around to take care of a dog for its normal lifespan. I decided to think about that for a while and learned to live without a dog for the first time in many years.

About six months later the "old scientist" was diagnosed with prostate cancer and life expectancy became a very big issue. As the scourge of men in the way that breast cancer is for women, prostate cancer has many methods of treatment and some of them are based on the individual's life expectancy. There's even a rather ominous sounding treatment, or rather lack of treatment, called Watchful Waiting which basically assumes that something else will probably kill you before the prostate cancer will.

As another example, the surgical removal of the prostate, probably the most efficacious treatment is usually not performed on men over 70. Although, because the "old scientist" is very fit for his age, this option was not ruled out until later when the cancer was classed as too advanced for a surgical cure. All the while treatment was being discussed the words life expectancy were tossed around constantly and the "old scientist", being that way inclined, was running algorithms on life expectancy and survival rates after each different type of treatment.

Subsequently he underwent 8 weeks of daily radiation treatment and is now "cured", as he announces to everyone. God willing, he is, or that's what we assume. But, as a male, his life expectancy is 84 years, although his mother lived until she was 104, so he may have better genes than normal.

Consequently you can see that life expectancy has had some serious consideration by me in recent years. We try to keep fit at the gym and eat healthily and that's frankly all you can do. Often it's the luck of the draw, which I always used to think about when I worked in hospital pharmacy. Why does that person have that awful disease and not me? Why do I work here in the basement and they lie in that bed up on the ward? A mystery for sure.

So my plan is to enjoy each day to its fullest, for most of us do not know our life expectancy despite the fancy algorithms. But hopefully I will live out my allotted span according to the charts or more. For you see there are so many places I have yet to visit. I still have to fulfill my dream to go on safari. I don't yet have all the answers. I'm still a work in progress.

I have not been the only one pondering age this week. Janice from Pursuance of Truth wrote this lovely poem, When Did I Grow Old. With her permission, here are the five last lines. Do go read the whole.

Now the hair on my head has gone whiter;

the wrinkles on the face deeper and wider.

Now the seasons pass by so quickly

the taste of death is in the air...

When did I begin to grow old?


Liz said...

A great big happy birthday to you, jmb! Have a wonderful day!

It's been lovely getting to know you.

And great post. But don't be like my great-aunt who, when I was still a child so she can't have that been that old, started saying, 'There's no point buying new clothes for me: I won't get the wear out of them.'!!

King Tutanhigham said...

You're not 72 - it's a conspiracy theory!

Helge Mikkelsen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Helge Mikkelsen said...

Happy birthday to you. Hope you will get a wonderful day!

Carver said...

Happy Birthday JMB,

Wonderful post and I hope you get to go on your African Safari.

As ever, Carver

Lord Nazh© said...

Happy Birthday!

Carla in Austin said...

I don't know you, just came across your blog by accident while wandering through other blogs.
Happy Birthday to you!
On the note of the dog---get another one. If your life expectancy and that of another dog (15 yrs) is hanging you and the Old Scientist up, then get an older dog. You'll save yourself the whole drama of having a puppy AND give a good grown dog a good home.

Ian Lidster said...

Huge happy birthday to you, dear friend. And might I add that you 'wear it' remarably well. I, as a denier (as well as being a contrarian) try to avoid thinking about life expectancy, but find that impossible -- it encroaches invariably.
I just try to tell myself it's all about genetics and console myself with the three (now deceased) centenarians on both sides of my family.

Janice Thomson said...

Happy Birthday dear friend and many many more to come - dog or not :)

Political Umpire said...

Happy birthday, JMB. Great post, very thought provoking and moving. I wish my father had the same positive outlook - though saying that he's now summouned the effort and declared he will come back to the UK one last time to see his latest grandchild.

sally in norfolk said...

Happy Birthday...having lost 2 people close to us in such a short time (both younger than myself)its really made me look at life a little differently

Julie said...

A very interesting post - hope your 'old scientist' is continuing from strength to strength.

Many Happy Returns of the Day, JMB - have a good one!

Eurodog said...

Very moving post, jmb.
Happy birthday to you.

Shades said...

Happy Birthday, have many more of them.

Rositta said...

Yes life expectancy is something that has been in my thoughts recently also. My son recently had a new baby and my first thought was, I won't be alive to see her grow up. Awful when that is all we fixate on isn't it? A very Happy Birthday to you, go on Safari and then get an older dog. Enjoy your day...ciao:)

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

My next birthday is one I dread.
I say goodbye to my twenties.

I must admit, I thought you were in your mid sixties at most- you have a young attitude which my parents, both in their fifties do not.

Ian said...

Have a happy birthday jmb.

I figure, there's no point worrying about how long we've got. It only gets in the way of living it.

Here's wishing you many more years of books and blogging.



Welshcakes Limoncello said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JMB! And what a wonderful post. I, too, think of these things but I would bet [I'm not a betting woman but it's my Dad's spirit urging me here] there are many happy years ahead for you and the "old scientist". I agree with you it's largely the luck of the draw. Life ain't fair so we must do our best. Give another dog some love, jmb - that's my unasked for advice!

crunchy carpets said...

Well, Many Happy Returns!!!

Apart from the unfortunate things that sneak up on us...I think age is mostly in the are as young as you feel.

Grendel said...

Happy Birthday.

Have a wonderful day.

Love Grendel and Freddy

lady macleod said...

Happy Birthday friend! You my dear are as alive and in the world as any I care to meet on my road; I would ask that you stay about if only for my very selfish reason, that this world is ever so much the better for having you in it.

A toast from me:
May the best ye've ever seen
Be the worst ye'll ever see
May a moose ne'er leave yer girnal
Wi' a tear drap in his e'e
May ye aye keep hale an' he'rty
Till ye're auld eneuch tae dee
May ye aye be jist as happy
As we wish ye aye tae be

Vic Grace said...

Happy Birthday. I hope you have many more in good health and vitality.

I know what you mean about growing older outside but inside you feel still quite young. That is why I hate having my photo taken I think, apart from a certain amount of vanity. I can't relate to the person in the picture, she looks way to old.

Josie said...

JMB, Happy Birthday...! You do indeed have a young attitude, and I believe that is a large part of life expectancy. You are still a work in progress. I recently saw a video of the actress Betty Garrett, singing and dancing, and she's 88. She looked amazing.

I ran across this recently, I can't remember where, but it stuck in my mind:

Lose all your blues laughing at life
Live for tomorrow, be happy today
Laugh all your sorrows away

Live for tomorrow!

JUST A MOM said...

Happy birthday just passing through as I do every now and then to see what he new world has out there for me to see. I hope that your day has been a beautiful one. AND then my thoughts could be as deep as yours, I will be working on that.

Nice to meet you.

leslie said...

I do so wish you a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY on this special day.

I, too, started contemplating life expectancy last month when I turned 60, but I absolutely refuse to die until I'm past 100. I want to see my great (and maybe great great) grandchildren before I move on to that big happy place. I figure my grandmothers both lived to their mid-90s and for that generation, it was really old. So hopefully I've inherited those genes.

Go on that safari and if the "old scientist" can't go with you, call me. I'll go! :D

jmb said...

Hi Liz,
Thanks for the good wishes. Oh no, I still buy new clothes! Lots!

Hi King Tut,
Everything is a conspiracy theory to you but I'll take it on this one. They are conspiring to make me twenty years too old!

Hi Helge,
Thanks for the good wishes. It's been very good so far.

Hi Carver,
Thanks and I hope I do too. You have a great weekend celebration yourself.

Thanks Lord Nazh.

Welcome Carla in Austin and thanks for the good wishes. The problem is all the dogs at the SPCA are half pit bull/ half German shepherd and I'm a small dog person.

Hi Ian,
Thanks and I am also hoping for very good genes to carry me healthily past that goal.

Hi Janice,
Thank you and thanks for permission to borrow the poem which I just loved.

Hi PU,
Thanks and I'm glad to hear you father is coming to see your newest addition. He'll not be sorry. Some people have not been blessed with such good health as I have had till now at least.

Hi Sally,
Thanks. That was very sad for you, especially as your ex was so very young.

Hi Julie,
Glad you liked the post and the "old scientist" is doing very well.

Hi Eurodog,
Thanks and I hoped you liked my introspection, upbeat on the whole I hope.

Hi Shades,
Thanks and I am hoping for many more.

Hi Rositta,
It's funny how it hits you but hopefully you will be around to see her grow up and I hope I will be here for mine who is only 4.

Hi Crushed,
You've got to get over this fear of the thirties. I think they are great.
I'm sorry your parents don't have a young attitude because it sure makes life more fun and interesting.

Hi Ian,
I don't dwell on it too much thank heaven but today I thought I would write about it.
So many books, so little time and the same is true for blogs too.

I'm counting on quite a few more good years but I'm not quite ready to push the dog yet. I do look at the SPCA ads but they seem to be all large dogs and I like small ones. Does Miss Simi have a sister?

Hi Crunchy,
How did you know? I am as young as I feel and I feel pretty good. Thanks for dropping in with the good wishes.

Thanks to all of you for visiting and commenting. I can't believe you all came.

jmb said...

Hi Grendel,
Thanks for the good wishes, the day has been great.

Hi Lady Mac,
Thanks for the wishes and the toast. I hope to go out hale and hearty until the last hurrah.

Hi Vic grace,
Thank you, more is good. We should throw our mirrors away except other people have to look at us so we better keep them and repair the ravages of time.

Hi Josie,
Thanks for the good wishes and I do try to have a young attitude. Good quote and I do try to laugh a lot.

Hi Just a Mom,
Thanks for stopping to comment. I have had a lovely day. Nice to meet you too.

Hi Leslie,
Thanks. These milestones make us stop and think but I was still working at 60 and didn't have time to think about it.
Well I also want to get back to Italy again in the not too distant future before I forget all my Italian.

Thanks to you all for visiting and commenting. I am overwhelmed by the response.

Mimi Lenox said...

Happy Birthday! Hope you've had a wonderful day.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

JMB, Happy Birthday. May your life be long and with few regrets.

eastcoastlife said...

Happy 72nd Birthday, jmb!

Have a wonderful day! Hugs

jmb said...

Hi Mimi,
Thanks for the good wishes and I hope you had a wonderful day yesterday.

Thanks I hope I do too. No regrets so far.

Thanks for the good wishes and I have had a great day.


marymaryquitecontrary said...

I am one day late but HAPPY BIRHDAY. A great post; I do hope your husband is keeping well. We have decided we don't want any more ornamental things for our home. When my Mother died last year it was heart renching to clear out her treasure things. I had my sixieth birthday earlier this year. We have booked a Safari holiday for February. We are going to Kenya and then to Zanzibar. Take the plunge and book yours too.

Gledwood said...


Wow! I thought you were... well I don't know I never imagined you as 72 anyhow! Well you've beaten the old 3-score and 10... Here's to many happy years ahead!!

Have a marvellous weekend too!!

Ian Appleby said...

Sorry to be a day late, but many happy returns!

Sean Jeating said...

Mylady, "knowing" you just by this and that (fine) comment you are leaving here and there in blogosphere, I felt the wish to immediately dropping by via James ... to wish you 366 days full of health, joy, inspiration and love. :)

jmb said...

Hi Marymaryquitecontrary,
Thanks for the good wishes. I have done the same thing. Watched someone's treasures sold at auction for nothing.
You'll have to let me know how the safari thing goes.

Hi Gleds,
Did I give you a shock? Still really thirty five at heart however, just like you.

Hi Ian,
Thanks for your good wishes and for popping by.

Hi Sean,
Thanks for your good wishes too and for making the stop at my blog.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.

Chrysalis Angel said...

I am sorry to hear of your husband's diagnosis. I so know the feeling of ka thud in ones chest. I will keep you both in my prayers. I can't imagine life now without a furry baby by my side, they give so much love, but they are some work - as with anything we love. I hope I get to read about your safari someday.:)

ipanema said...

~~HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JMB!!!~~ More blessings and a peaceful, joyful life in the coming years!

Hope you had a good day! :)

jmb said...

Hi CA,
Thanks for your thoughts. He is fine for now, cured as he says. I hope the safari becomes a reality one day too.

Colin Campbell said...

Happy Birthday. You share the day with my son, Ryan. I shared my birthday with my Grandmother, which had pros and cons.

MedStudentWife said...

I am so behind in my reading...

Happy belated Birthday, JMB. And many more :)

Dreaming again said...

Happy Belated birthday.

Because of Don's health and my rather ..iffy conditions. We've adopted a lifestyle that allows us to live life, fully.

We plan as if tomorrow, things will come to their worst possible conclusion.

We live as if it will never happen. Ever.

This has allowed us to make all the necessary financial and medical decisions, then put them in a nice little box, only to be brought out when necessary. To live life as a 'normal' couple enjoying everything life has to give us.

Life expectancy doesn't matter one whit.

Joy expectancy ...that's our goal.

Love Bears All Things said...

You could very well have 20 more years. Plenty of time to enjoy loving and recieving love from another dog. The other day my daughter was talking to me about long-term care insurance. It just made me sad. I have recently lost both parents at ages 77 and 80. Neither had to have long term care. I might live 25-30 years more. I'm not ready to think about that yet. I told her that I thought she was supposed to care for me. Isn't that what the bible teaches? As for all our money going to a nursing home, if it pays for our care, so be it.
Mama Bear

jmb said...

Hi Colin,
I'm happy to share the birthday with Ryan, no conflict there but I see the point about sharing with Grandma.

Not to worry, it's never to late.

Hi PK,
That is a very good philosophy to have and I hope you have many more years together to put it into effect.
I like that thought very much, Joy Expectancy.

Hi Mama Bear,
I'll take 20 more years of good health. I think about the dog every now and again. Maybe an older dog.
Only 10% of elderly people end in care so I have never considered taking out insurance for such relatively low odds. As you say, you pay it if you have to if and when it might be necessary.