Living in fear of being diagnosed with a chronic or terminal disease

It all started about age 50. We ran into some old friends that we had not seen in 10 years and asked them all to a barbecue. We use to have regular barbecues 10 years ago but somehow we had all drifted apart. When they all arrived, the excitement of seeing them again and catching up and cooking and drinking was great, then we finished dinner and the real talk started.

At my barbecue there were five couples and one single guy. The single guy or should I call him Brian was a diabetic and had collapsed with a heart attack while in court fighting for custody of his two year old 10 years prior. When I last saw him he was very ill with some of his major organs starting to shut down, and here he was 10 years later sitting at the end of the table. He said he had grown an inch with his new legs, and was often referred to as legless.

The next couple Samantha and John had also had problems with their health around 50. John had suffered a heart attack at 51 and had a double bypass operation and a couple of years later Samantha had had a hysterectomy because her womb was pre-cancerous. 

Moving on down the table and we had one who had 8 operations on his face and after five years had just gone back to work. This was because he had a bad car accident and it had left him with a very badly smashed face. Probably that was not a natural illness but it did disrupt his life and give him permanent problems with eating. 

As we moved around the table each had a story to tell an illness such as breast cancer, back problems and bowel cancer – all around the age of 50. There was only one fellow who did not have any problems and his son had just become quadriplegic after a motorbike accident.   

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You wonder why by the age of 60 you start going to the doctor if there is even a slight symptom…is it fear? We have watched a lot of our friends come down with these illnesses, some die, others becoming dependent with early onset Alzheimer’s, some passing out with dizzy heads, some having operations. Admittedly there are others that remain quite healthy. But 50 was the age more than average problems started to happen. Those who had been exercising all their lives might be healthier, but they too can be struck down with an illness they have inherited. At 60 we are over the first round of major illnesses….now it is disaster and downhill from here.

My daughter thinks that at 60 we panic or are afraid of becoming ill, and start going to the doctor at the first symptom. However I think at my age I go to the doctor when I need to, rather than list out my problems to the world. We are all going to die somehow but I really do not feel that it is fear that sends me to the doctor. Maybe after she has saved her husband’s life a few times, and has had numerous breast lumps and serious problems of her own she will understand why I carefully watch my blood pressure and other symptoms. If you have a chronic illness it becomes part of life and it just has to be watched. It is like servicing a car.

Tell us, do you fear a bad diagnosis in your 60s? Do you think it’s pessimistic to do so, or just being cautious?