We don’t bounce like we used to

Although I mentioned I fell down and went boom, I was too angry at the time to explain it in any way that might help someone else. I’ve had a few days to calm down.

It was Monday. I parked my car and was walking toward the entrance to a thrift shop, where I planned to search for cheap things I might turn into art or something like it. Items were displayed on the porch. I got excited, and with my eyes on the prize, I tripped on a parking lot car stopper and went face down.

People were nice. Stuff flew out of my purse, and someone gathered it up. Someone else brought me a chair. A woman with a young child had a wad of tissues for my bleeding chin. I felt OK, but I sat there keeping pressure on the chin. I asked someone for a mirror, and when I saw the gash, I immediately knew I’d need medical treatment.

I drove to a walk-in clinic near my house. I did not know there’s a difference between a walk-in clinic and an urgent care clinic. The physician’s assistant at the walk-in clinic took a quick look and said I needed to go to urgent care.

Next stop was urgent care, where I commenced to wait. I was there over an hour, when the receptionist announced there was some sort of air quality problem, perhaps carbon monoxide. They were closing the clinic and evacuating the building. She said I’d need to go to their other clinic, a good 30 minutes away.

I thought, well, I don’t need to stay within their system, as long as the clinic accepts my insurance. I used Google Maps to find another urgent care clinic down the street. Oh, and Dale had let his phone die, as he often does, so there was no way to reach him and let him know I’d be late. I finally texted a neighbor and asked her to let Dale know where his wife was.

By this time, I started bleeding again. I thought that might bump me up in line, but it did not. A woman with five children offered to let me go in front of her, and I said, seriously, you must be the kindest person ever, but I’ll just wait my turn and mop up the blood as best I can.

The gash only needed two stitches. It didn’t hurt much at all, and I thought I was golden. Until the next day, I woke up with bruises all over and sore ribs. The ribs actually got worse the next day, but they are getting better. Still, I’m taking it easy. I’m pissed to have endured all that rain and no golf, only to mess myself up as soon as it got nice outside.

Anyway, the clinic said to come back in 10 days to have the stitches removed. The aftercare sheet they gave me said five days if the laceration is on the face. I called my regular doctor, and they said yes, five days. I had an appointment Friday to have them removed, but I messed up the time and missed my appointment. They would not work me in. I now have an appointment to have the stitches removed Monday, which will be seven days. I don’t care anymore. What’s one more scar?

At every juncture on this little journey, I would explain I tripped over a parking lot car stopper. And almost every single person had a story about a pedestrian accident involving parking lot care stoppers. I had never given them much thought, but you can bet I will now.

I have no good explanation for my lapse of attention. But missing my appointment is another indication I’m letting too much distract me. This post about juggling balls from Linda at Thoughts From a Bag Lady in Waiting certainly resonated with me. From now on, I’m starting every day with a look at the calendar and a very short list of priorities.

Here’s the weirdest part, and I would love to hear from anyone who has a theory. March 11 was the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. That was 1999. On March 11, 2012, I fell off my bicycle and broke my wrist. And now on March 11, 2019, I busted myself up in a parking lot.

Please be careful out there. We don’t bounce like we used to.

Vacuuming your way to pickleball

My retirement credo is move if you’re able, as much as you’re able. I walk, I play golf, I walk when I play golf, I clean the house … Dale has not exactly followed my lead, but he knew there was room for improvement. Enter pickleball.

In case you don’t know, pickleball is the official sport of the senior set. Pickleball is the new shuffleboard only more vigorous. The game is played on a court and is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. The court is a bit smaller and the net is a bit lower. You hit the ball with a wooden paddle, and the plastic ball is nearly dead.

Back in the day, Dale and I played tennis and racquetball. Both sports were abandoned years ago due to injuries. Dale’s shoulder, my knees. But these days we’re doing pretty well injury-wise and hoped pickleball might be a modern solution to our need to kick each other’s butts on the court. Let’s just say we were are competitive.

I signed us up for lessons at the local community center. Dale questioned the need for lessons – how hard can it be? My thinking was not about the game’s difficulty but meeting other people who know how to play, understanding the etiquette, learning how to schedule time on the court, etc. Clearly, considerations too detailed for Dale’s big-picture brain.

We had our first two classes this week. Two more next week and we graduate. The class was filled with men and women who looked pretty much like us. Older, varying degrees of fitness.

The men were mostly out of shape, but a couple of the women looked athletic and one tightly packed blonde had an aggressive swing seemingly aimed at my face. I’m going back for her.

For a guy who didn’t even see the need for lessons, it turns out Dale read up on the game and the rules beforehand. The teacher was explaining how to tally the score, and I whispered to Dale I was confused, and he whispered back not to worry, because he already read it all online.

You did pre-work? Seriously? Whew, the stakes are high.

Pickleball is fun! We’re terrible now but figure we’ll improve soon enough. Nothing hurt when I played, and more importantly, nothing hurt after I played. Dale said he discovered new muscles. He runs but doesn’t exercise his upper body all that much. I guess golf saves me in that department. Or is it golf?

In a moment of brilliance, I suggested to Dale he vacuum more for a better upper-body workout. Nothing like a vigorous vacuum to prepare for a day of sport! Mopping is another excellent choice. In a pinch, yard work will suffice. He found that all very amusing.

If you haven’t tried pickleball, I recommend giving it a go. So far, it seems gentler on the body yet still challenging enough to call it a workout. Moving more in new and different directions can’t be a bad thing. All in all, we like it and are hoping pickleball will be a game we can enjoy together for many years to come.

20th cancerversary

This month is my 20th cancer anniversary. I’ve written about my cancer experiences from time to time, and I’m never sure if I get it right. Of course, it’s my story, I know how it begins and ends, but I’m fuzzy on purpose. Am I doing any good?

Documenting the journey reminds me of my good fortune and keeps me grounded. But this story is also for others. It’s about aiming high, knowing good outcomes are possible. Cancer sucks, and sometimes it kills you but not always.

It was 1999. We were in the middle of moving from Charleston to Columbia, S.C. – a move known at our house as “The Big Mistake.” It was not the career accelerator I expected, and I was experiencing weird abdominal pain.

I found a wonderful family practice physician who didn’t think I was nuts. He sent me to a general surgeon, who said it was probably adhesions – scar tissue – from a hysterectomy I’d had several years earlier to alleviate painful periods.

Adhesions kind of glue everything together, so he’d go in with a scope through the navel and zap them apart. Surgery was no big deal, because this was just a quick little Friday morning outpatient procedure. I’d be back at work Monday. Except I woke up in a room, and I knew something was wrong.

It turned out to be Primary Peritoneal Cancer, a rare form of cancer that is almost the same thing as ovarian cancer (even though I had no ovaries). By the way, if your ovaries have been removed, there’s like a 99 percent chance you won’t get this.

The doctor said it blew him away completely, because cancer was the last thing he expected to see. He didn’t touch it, though. He called a gynecological oncologist from the operating room, and their collaboration helped spare my life.

I had Stage 3C, Grade 3 cancer. Statistics suggested a 25 percent chance of living five years, but my oncologist never discussed life expectancy. We just focused on the road ahead. I had surgery to remove the tumors. Surgery was followed by chemotherapy, which consisted a Taxol/Carboplatin cocktail infused every 21 days for about six months.

After chemo was completed, I would have another operation called “Second-Look Surgery.” The second-look was to biopsy what was left and see if microscopic cancer remained. If I still had cancer, I’d continue treatment, but if the biopsies were normal, I could spare my body the extra wear and tear.

My biopsy reports were negative, and if you don’t count breast cancer, I’ve been fine ever since.

In 1999, genetic testing wasn’t standard. Neither breast nor ovarian cancer runs in my family. Only when a routine mammogram led to a diagnosis of Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) did they test me. It came back positive for the BRCA 1 mutation. That was 2015.

No one else in the family tested positive, but my father had early onset prostate cancer, which can be a sign of a BRCA mutation, so we just assume I inherited it from my dad. He passed away many years ago from something else. Because of my BRCA status, I had a bilateral mastectomy, which is an aggressive and certainly not typical treatment for DCIS.

After being diagnosed with cancer the first time, I was hungry for inspiration. I remember Googling “ovarian cancer survivors.” What came back in the search results was a pile of obituaries – so and so died of ovarian cancer, survivors include …

Yet, here I am. Twenty years later, happily retired and hopefully solvent for another 30 years. So much life ahead!

And that’s why every now and then, I put my story out there. I want you and the random Googler to know for every kind of cancer, every stage of cancer, really for every adversity out there – somebody beats the odds, and it might be you.

Is it too late to start running?

Have you thought about running? As in actually propelling your body down the street in a moderate jog? The benefits are big, and it may not be too late to start.

I ran a bit in the 70s and early 80s but gave it up for walking by the time I turned 30. I simply didn’t enjoy running all that much. Walking has been good for me physically and mentally.

For a year or so now, I’ve had this urge to run. I’ll be out walking, and all of the sudden, I think, “Wow, it might feel good to run.” It’s not about losing weight or becoming super-fit. All of the sudden, it just sounded like fun.

Yet, I resisted. Why start now in my 60s, when walking seems to be fine? I started reading and found some interesting articles on the benefits of running, especially as we age. The most startling study found running might actually be good for your knees. In terms of bone density, running beats walking hands-down.

I finally decided to make the leap. I thought, well, I’ll alternate walking 30 seconds and then running 30 seconds. The first steps were wobbly at best – I wasn’t sure my ankles would hold me up! It felt weird to put that kind of pressure on my body.

Even for walking, I wear Hoka One One super-cushioned shoes, as I have bulging discs and other back maladies associated with age. I wear the Bondi 6. The shoes felt good, and once I got running, my ankles were functional. I completed a mile doing the walk-run.

Gradually, I increased to 1 minute of walking and 1 minute of running. And then I worked my way up to running a mile non-stop. I don’t want to screw this up, so I’m taking it slow.

After years of hating running, I can’t wait to do it again. I like the way the way running makes me feel. It’s a level of endurance hard to achieve through walking, unless you do lots of it. It’s winter now, and I love the way running warms me up fast. I can walk for an hour and never feel warm.

By retirement age, most of us have physical limitations. I say move if you’re able, as much as you’re able. Including physical movement in our daily lives enhances health and well-being. It’s great to run, work out at the gym and play sports, but walking, housework, yard work and cooking count, too.

From everything I’ve read, walking is nearly as beneficial as running, but you have to do more of it. We’re retired now, so walking more shouldn’t be a problem, right? I plan to continue my long walks, but I like these little walk-runs and want to gradually increase the running time. Here’s a good article from Consumer Reports on running versus walking.

The most comprehensive argument for running comes from no other than Runner’s World. The article focuses on running to look and feel younger and covers benefits to the heart, muscles, brain and immune system. The article speculates running 2 ½ hours per week total reaps all the rewards to be reaped. This article from the New York Times suggests 2 hours of running per week adds seven years to your life.

Will our aging backs, knees and other mysterious parts hold up to running? I find the body to be remarkably delicate and resilient at the same time. The key to running at this age or maybe any age is to ease in slowly and monitor your body carefully.

It’s exciting to be 63 years old and completely surprised by the spontaneous urge to run. I’m going for it.

No more cycling for me

I donated my bicycle today, and while I’m happy some lucky person will get a fantastic bargain, I have mixed emotions about age, risk and loss.

Actually, I was never big into cycling. But I had a run at it when we lived in Texas, as our house was just off a paved, car-free bicycle trail. I bought a beautiful road bike, akin to an entry-level racing bike. Smooth as butter after a little breaking in period.

About the breaking in. The bicycle came with clip-in pedals. I bought special shoes that clip in and out, and the shop clerk showed me how to use them. On the very first day I took the bike home, I went for a ride and practiced clipping in and out while I rode merrily down the street. Easy!

When I arrived at a small park, it was time to practice getting off the bike. I unclipped on one side and completely forgot about the other side, toppling over and falling hard on my wrist.

I managed to get home with my wrist propped up and my feet on the pedals (but not clipped in). My husband took me to an urgent care clinic. They did x-rays and said I had low bone density, which I already knew. Nothing was broken. The wrist hurt like hell for a week and turned me into a raging maniac. At the urging of a coworker, I went back to my regular doctor, and this time they confirmed the wrist was indeed broken. The cast was like magic balm.

After my wrist healed, I replaced the pedals with the regular kind and continued to ride moderate distances … nothing too long … mainly because even with padded shorts and an ergonomic seat, riding a bike can be a real pain in the crotch.

All that to say it was fun, but I was not all in. When we first moved to California, I rode a couple of times on a car-free trail but was too busy with work to do much more than that. Plus, my default exercises are golf and walking, both of which are better for bone density anyway.

About a year ago, I retired. Why, now I had time to do anything! I kept thinking about going out for a ride and talking about going out for a ride, but the bike sat in the garage untouched.

I’ve gone back and forth but finally decided to part with the bike. While it’s true I enjoy other activities more, the real reason is I’m afraid of falling. I got away with a broken wrist last time, but next time I may not be so lucky. My long-term plan to stay healthy and active depends on remaining fracture-free.

On one hand, I’m happy to have made the decision. One less bulky item in the garage. One less thing to distract me from my true interests. But another part of me feels sad to eliminate an activity that is safe and routine for many. Most people don’t fall. But then again, most of us don’t bounce like we used to.

Am I being too careful? Old before I’m old?

Maybe, but the fear of falling is already etched in my brain, and I’ve read thinking you’ll fall is a sure recipe for falling. I concluded riding a bicycle is just not worth the risk. It seems like such a small loss, given the other indignities of aging, but I hate being reminded my body has limits.

I can only imagine what it will feel like when it’s time to turn in the car keys.

My coconut year (and the results)

I’ve written about my love of coconut and have incorporated it into my diet – mostly in the form of unsweetened coconut and coconut oil in my homemade granola and Indian soups and stews with full-fat coconut milk. These foods have been a staple of my diet for about a year now.

Although I don’t have a scientific process for examining cause and effect, in that year my cholesterol went up where it should have gone down and down where it should have gone up. My doctor said if it were anyone else, she wouldn’t even comment.

But it is not anyone else, it’s me, and she knows I take this stuff seriously.  She gets that I’m annoyed. I explained the details of my coconut year, and she agreed cutting back would probably bring my numbers back to where I want them. I hadn’t realized coconut was so high in saturated fat. Like 85 percent! Yikes.

Because it would be too simple to blame it on the coconut, during that year I also stopped taking a daily fish oil supplement. That scoundrel Jane Brody of the New York Times reported there doesn’t seem to be evidence fish oil supplements do anything but generate expensive urine. I’m all about cheap pee, so I stopped taking the pills.

As soon as I got my metabolic panel results – back to fish oil for me. The doctor agreed it was a prudent move.

Yogurt is another possible culprit, although I suspect not. I make my own yogurt using whole milk and eat a serving with breakfast nearly every day. Although I haven’t gained weight, one could argue the fat contributes to my cholesterol. I’ve been eating whole milk cheese for years, and my cholesterol was fine.

Nothing I’ve read puts a target on whole milk yogurt. But just for the sport of it, I made a batch of 2 percent, and it’s delicious. The texture is the same although perhaps slightly tarter. I definitely liked the 2 percent better for raita – grated cucumbers in yogurt to accompany spicy curry. For the sake of science, I’ll keep making 2 percent.

She was pleased with my blood sugar, which has remained stable with no medication or treatment. I am pre-diabetic, a condition I attribute to my origins at the bottom of the gene pool. I mean, really? I did not know a thin, active person could be at risk, but there you have it. I’m careful about carbs and sugar, and it appears to be working.

The visit went well, although I had a long list of stuff to go over, and they said I only had a 20-minute appointment. I didn’t know there was such a thing. Apparently, you have to request 40 minutes, and I will do that next time. I admit to being a wee bit manipulative, but we got through my list.

I don’t like my oncologist, and I got a referral to a female oncologist who also specializes in genetic research. I had ovarian and breast cancer and am BRCA1-positive. The other oncologist, a man, was surprised I did not have reconstruction and seemed squeamish about looking at my flat chest. I’m hoping the female doctor will have a better grip on reality.

The other big issue was my vertigo. The doctor agreed vertigo sucks and is referring me to vestibular rehabilitation therapy – some sort of physical therapy for inner ear disorders. I’m looking forward to it!

As I was leaving, she said, “You aren’t exercising outside with this air quality are you?” We’ve experienced days of dreaded red status – unhealthy for anyone – as a result of the fires more than 100 miles away. I said I was planning to play golf the next day, and she said, “Please don’t. This is bad stuff. You work too hard to be healthy to let this get you.”

For once, I listened. I canceled my tee time and am not doing much of anything outside until the air quality improves. In the meantime, I’m not eliminating anything from my diet – including yummy coconut – but I am going to be more careful and lean Mediterranean.

I previously shared my recipe for coconut granola, which I still love, but I’m updating here with olive oil and seeds instead of coconut. I made it yesterday, and it’s delicious.

Donna’s Low-Sugar Granola 

1 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup mixed raw seeds (hemp, sunflower, sesame, etc.)

1 cup mixed raw nuts, coarsely chopped (cashews, pecans, almonds, walnuts, etc.)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 egg white, lightly whisked

1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line a ½ sheet pan with parchment.

Mix dry ingredients together and add liquids. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Spread mixture in the sheet pan and cook for 20 minutes – stir gently and turn pan half-way through cooking time. It should be golden brown but not too dark – it may need 3-5 minutes more cooking time. Let cool and store in airtight container.

Phat cat

I thought I was pretty good with words, but it turns out I haven’t kept up with the times. I sent this picture of our cat, Riley, lounging on his cardboard kitty couch to my sister-in-law, who texted back:

Is he laying on that couch? That’s a phat cat.

Nooooo. That’s just fur. Not fat!

I meant phat cat lounging on his couch by the fire with no cares, being catered to.

Oh.

Dale said I need to get with it. “I guess your golf buddies aren’t exactly up on the latest slang.”

At least we both agree Riley is a keeper (although Dale makes jokes about the unfortunate coloring at the base of his tail). I was reading about the fires in California – close enough to tamper with our air quality but far enough away to feel some sense of security – and a guy was frantically looking for his cat. He said he’d trade his house for the cat, and that’s the way I would feel. Loving a pet is life affirming.

I’m feeling like a phat cat since my vertigo went away. For those who are unfamiliar with vertigo, it’s not like the movie. For the type I get, crystals in the ears get jumbled around, causing nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Although I only throw up for a day, the other effects linger for about a week. I’ve had cancer twice, but I’d rank vertigo close to the top of the pestilence poster.

The doctor gave me exercises (Epley Maneuver) that are supposed to put the crystals back where they belong. The exercises work, but the dizziness often comes back at night when I sleep. Some studies say it doesn’t matter how you sleep, but others suggest you sleep at a 45-degree angle for two nights after doing the exercises. All I know is in my case, it kept coming back.

I couldn’t find a comfortable way to sleep at a 45-degree angle, so I went to a store that sells all matter of stuff for people with back problems who want to sleep. The rep was quite familiar with vertigo, and $300 later, I had a pillow system to keep me propped up. A wedge for my head, a wedge for my knees and a neck pillow. The first night was a bit uncomfortable, but the second night was fine.

The third night was great, because my vertigo was gone! It’s amazing how fabulous I feel. I was reluctant to spend the $300, but if it works, it’s totally worth it. I’ve had three vertigo episodes this year.

Now that I’m feeling phat, I’m excited about the cooler weather and new opportunities to play outside. I like sports, and I had kind of an epiphany this week about knowing my limitations. I had a golf lesson, and my coach wanted me to adopt a much more aggressive swing. We practiced it, but I hated the feeling, and I was scared being too aggressive would mess me up. There’s some history.

In the not-my-fault category, I’ve had two major abdominal surgeries, a mastectomy and frozen shoulder following the mastectomy. Frozen shoulder lasted a year. For self-induced trauma, I fell off a bike and broke my wrist. I also injured my hip flexors and trashed my knees racewalking competitively. My knees hurt for five years.

I’m healthy, my body parts are feeling good and I’d like to keep it that way so I can enjoy a long and active retirement. Isn’t that what we all want? If it means I don’t hit the ball as far, so be it. I’ll just have to improve the rest of my game. I have time.

Singing for the health of it

I had a wonderful visit with my friend and her wife, who is being treated for cancer. Since I was on a road trip, I carried my big tote-like purse, as opposed to my usual gender-neutral crossover bag, and the first thing my friend said is, “That’s a girly purse. Where did that come from?” All I could do is cry in defense:

It’s made of seatbelts!

And she was like, oh, OK. Seatbelt bags are from Harveys, and they are cool.

But I digress. We talked about lots of fun stuff but also cancer, which I’ve had twice. Both were girly cancers, by the way. In 1999, I had a variation of ovarian cancer that forms in the lining of the abdomen. It’s virtually the same disease, but it’s called Primary Peritoneal Cancer. I was diagnosed at Stage 3, Grade 3. My treatment was surgery and six cycles of chemotherapy — specifically Taxol and Carboplatin. I’ve been free of disease since my initial treatment.

A routine mammogram revealed early stage breast cancer in 2015. The treatment would normally be lumpectomy and radiation, but it turns out I have the BRCA 1 genetic mutation, which puts me in a special risk category, so my treatment was bilateral mastectomy. Other than post-mastectomy neuropathic pain, I’m fine. Topical cannabis keeps the neuropathy from becoming bothersome.

It turns out my friend’s wife is also being treated with Taxol and Carboplatin, as well as new immunotherapy medicine, which is quite promising. I was excited — I’m the poster girl for Taxol — and I wanted to give her hope that it would work on her as well as it worked on me. A toast to Taxol, to immunotherapy and to the people whose life’s work helps save us!

Then we started chatting about tips for getting through this mess. I mean, everybody has to do it their own way, but I tried to share a few of my best practices. I had already commented I liked her bald head. Wigs are fine if you need them, but I believe going bald in public is good survival behavior. It’s like a signal to yourself and to the world you are not afraid, even if you are. You are here to stay!

I believe in the mind-body connection. If there’s a time to bring your inner sunny optimist to the party, this is it. I asked if she sang.

What?

Do you sing?

I have a terrible singing voice, but I sang happy songs every day to lift my spirits. I know both young people and retirees who sing in groups for the pleasure of it, but for those of us who can’t carry a tune, I found a sing-a-long website hosted by the federal government. I’d sit at my computer with the door closed and no witnesses other than the cat. And I would sing.

My playlist included lots of Disney. My friend doesn’t like Disney because of stereotypes and such, and I agree, but you’ve got to hand it to them on the music. So positive! I just squint and look the other way on that whole princess thing.

Broadway musicals are another good source of happy inspiration. Most of my musicals are old school — I haven’t kept up with the new productions. Here’s my playlist from the website:

  • When You Wish Upon a Star
  • Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah
  • Don’t Worry, Be Happy
  • Bare Necessities
  • Happy Talk
  • I have Confidence in Me
  • Oh, What a Beautiful Morning
  • The Candy Man
  • This Land is Your Land

Even many years after cancer, I continue to sing or hum songs (in a low voice) to keep me mellow. Dale calls it Radio Donna. I like Bare Necessities a lot. One of my old standbys is Impossible from Cinderella — but it’s not on the website.

When I was driving home from my visit, I scanned the stations on Sirius and found On Broadway. I heard Richard Kiley performing Man of La Mancha, and there I was cruising down the freeway singing along at the top of my lungs. I sound fantastic in the car!

What songs would you put on your happy playlist?

New glasses!

My glasses broke several weeks ago, so I got my eyes examined and went shopping. I briefly entertained the idea of getting funky frames now that I’m retired and don’t have to fit in, but I’m kind of minimalist and like to keep things simple. As my mother used to say, you can’t go wrong with black.

I didn’t like any of the frames in the big eyewear stores, and I didn’t like any of the frames in the optometrist-owned enterprises, either. I searched on the Internet and found a place that looked promising in an artsy urban area near Sacramento, about 30 miles from my home. If you live in the area, I highly recommend That Guy Eyewear. The owner’s name is Dennis, and he’s awesome.

Dennis buys closeouts and overruns. These frames are made by someone I’ve never heard of … Michel Atlan. The shop carries tons of really cool frames, and the prices are so good, I might even consider another pair — perhaps funky? I have progressives, and the total price for frames and lenses was $339.

Most of you don’t live in the area, but I encourage you to look for small, independent shops. The service was great, and I consider these a bargain. I spent way more on glasses when I had cash flow.

Back to the eye exam. I did not want my eyes dilated, so I paid out-of-pocket for the fancy scan. The scan revealed calcifications in both eyes. According to 23andMe, I am at higher risk for age-related macular degeneration, so that was an unpleasant surprise. The optometrist said they could be nothing, and they aren’t near the retina. But, of course, now we have to watch it.

I studied up on macular degeneration, which can impair your vision and potentially lead to blindness. I’m seriously hoping I don’t get it. Even though the genetic test showed I’m at higher risk, no one in the family had it, so that’s good. But after surviving both ovarian cancer and breast cancer, I know I need to be vigilant and hope for the best. I take it seriously and will certainly follow up, but I put it in the bucket of things I refuse to worry about.

For now, anyway. My advice? Pay for the scan.

Getting out of task mode

Everything I’m reading says good health and happy retirements are associated with strong social networks. I’ve worked hard to stay healthy and am loving retirement, but I am failing as a friend, and I’m going to fix it.

About the only thing I can say in my defense is that we moved more than 20 times during our careers. We never established roots, never got to know people in the community. We met our friends at work, and now they are scattered. We haven’t always done a good job of staying in touch. But that’s not really the issue.

The crux of the problem seems to be how I approach life. I’m task-oriented, which can be a good thing. Until it goes bad. Early in my career I was all about the job, all about the work and didn’t pay much attention to relationships. After my first cancer experience, I figured out work wasn’t everything in life, and I started paying attention to people. I discovered I liked people more than the work itself. An unintended consequence? My career blossomed.

Yet I still struggle with this mentality of mine. Retirement. Do I just retire? No, I start a blog about retirement. Even my interest in medical cannabis is task-oriented. Most people just go out a buy some pot. Not me. I read all the literature, bookmark all the websites, subscribe to all the newsletters and attend specialized training in the cannabis industry.

And then there’s golf, my hobby of choice. For many years, I just went out as a single and played with strangers. I was all about golf, so that was fine with me. But in retirement, I play more golf and the singles lifestyle wasn’t cutting it.

Dale and I always joke the only thing we’ve ever joined was a wine club (because we’re joiners). However, I bit the bullet and joined several women’s golf leagues. I’m having a great time, but it has been an adjustment playing with the same people week after week. Relationships matter.

I’m friendly and have been told I’m fun to play with, but when I’m done, I’m ready to go home. My task is over. The other women like to gather in the clubhouse and socialize. I forced myself to join the party last week and realized this is a perfect opportunity to strengthen my social network. Friends! Right there, practically built-in. It’s time to get out of task mode.

The idea is to relax and have fun with real people in real life who have similar interests. How hard can it be? Just to make sure I’m fully prepared, I did some research and invested in a social lubricant we call birdie juice. Bird Dog Peach Whiskey. Someone makes a birdie, everyone gets a shot.

Baby steps.