When I’m 91: RA And Mortality
My grandfather passed away at the beginning of December. That’s why I’ve been quiet lately.
His death necessitated an emergency trip from New York to Michigan. It also necessitated a facing of my own mortality.
My grandfather was 91 years old. For someone his age, he was doing relatively well. Even so, the last few years of his life were definitely his sickest and the most costly, physically, emotionally, and financially.
He had congestive heart failure that was mostly controlled. He had hernia surgery a little over a year ago and had a horrible reaction to the anesthesia. That was really the beginning of his decline. Not some horrible disease that was incurable. Rather, it was the risks that come with being that age and having medical procedures.
The worst part was that his mind was all there, and he struggled in dealing with the physical decline, which left him somewhat depressed.
But ultimately, his death was sudden. He was leaving the house to go to an appointment and he collapsed, and that was it. He had as little awareness as any of us that it was the end. And that’s what made the situation so difficult. Yes, he was 91, and he lived a good, full life. But we weren’t ready, weren’t prepared, to say goodbye.
When I look at his life, and how healthy he was overall for the majority of it, it makes me look at my life and wonder…
Will I make it to 91?
What will my sickest years look like if I haven’t experienced them yet, despite the shit storm that I’ve already been through?
What will the physical, emotional, and financial costs be for me and my family?
Will the end of my life look like my grandfather’s or will it be decidedly different?
When you are young and diagnosed with a chronic illness, you go from being invincible to having to face your mortality head on. This isn’t an easy thing to do.
I feel like I got into a routine where I resigned myself to the fact that my life would be different and that I probably wouldn’t live for as long as I imagined I would. Does that thought have any basis in reality?
Of course it does.
RA comes with an increased risk of heart disease. It also comes with co-morbidities such as infections and malignancies that come from having a weakened immune system as a result of the medications we take.
There’s also a question of function. If my hips are stiff and hurt now, what will they be like in 20, 30, 40, or 50 years?
And if I have problems now that normally people have when they get old, what will I look like when I get old?
I’m not trying to be doom and gloom here.
I don’t relish thinking about my death or anybody else’s. But I think when you have a chronic illness, you have to. Death no longer seems like some random, faraway thing. Even though death is inevitable for everyone, it feels more inevitable when you are sick.
And when you are young and sick, it’s hard to imagine lasting as long as healthy people.
I don’t know if I’ll make it to 91, but I’m not planning on dying any time soon.