The 70-Something Blog is now The 80-Something Blog. Stay tuned in ten years for The 90-Something Blog!

Interim Report

The outpouring of good wishes from 70/80-Something readers in response to my breast cancer diagnosis has been astonishing. It was difficult for me to share it because I am normally pretty upbeat. And other than being grateful for having had such a wonderful cancer-free life for so long, it’s hard to feel positive about my diagnosis. Your caring thoughts mean so much to me.

I am determined not to let cancer define my life—at least not once we have what we refer to as “a plan.”

Cancer will not define this blog either. There’s too much else to talk about. For one thing, after a gloomy November, the sun has been shining for a week.

That’s got to be a good sign.

 


November Is the Cruelest Month

November is my least favorite month of the year in spite of the fact that it contains Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. Gloomy skies are ever-present, and the days get shorter much too fast.

This November was especially tough. A routine mammogram at the beginning of the month looked suspicious to the radiologist who ordered a non-surgical biopsy. My primary care doctor’s call telling me that I was fine turned out to be premature. Although no cancer cells were evident, the radiologists wanted me to have a surgical biopsy because there had been too much change from last year’s mammogram. That surgery a few days later revealed some cancer cells that would have to be removed.

Three weeks later, on the morning of my operation to remove them, the surgeon called to tell me that a further test had found HER2 positive cells that indicate a particularly aggressive form of cancer. That meant she would have to take some lymph nodes to see if the cancer had spread.

Then this past Sunday, she called to tell me that her “we’ll take it out and you’ll be done” is no longer operative and that further treatment would be necessary.

So this November, my diagnosis had gone from “maybe something” to “nothing” to “definitely something” to “even worse”. My further treatment has not been determined yet, but it is likely to be chemotherapy followed by radiation.

Taking care of Peter has been my top priority this past year. So this bump in the road is going to take some adjusting.

I’m not liking my eighties so much.

 


A New Thanksgiving Tradition

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because it’s about food and gratitude. But after many years of Cambridge Thanksgivings, it was time to pass the hosting on to the next generation.

(After all, I am eighty).

Fourteen of us, ranging in age from twelve to eighty-eight gathered in Silver Spring, Maryland. Our son Jeremy and his wife Katrina were in charge.

The wild rice stuffing and French Silk Pie were the same as they had been in Cambridge, but Katrina brined the turkey for the first time and the next-door neighbors brought some vegetarian dishes for their non-meat-eating family members that our meat-eating family ate with pleasure.

The food was divine, and there was plenty of good conversation, although some of the teenage vernacular had to be translated into English for the older generation. The readings from our Grateful Jar were funnier than ever. But what I loved the most was the six kids, singing and dancing to music they asked “Alexa” to play for them while they did the cleanup, thus allowing the cooking-weary older generation to rest and hang out together.

The joyful conversations we have when we are surrounded by kids are what I miss most in my eighty-year-old life. And one of the best things about Thanksgiving.


Break from a Break

In all the years of writing this blog, I never asked readers how they found me. But I spent a good part of today with a reader I had met briefly when she came to my bookstore signing for 70-Something: Life, Love and Limits in the Bonus Years. (Shameless plug!)

An early Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal who (after a long teaching career), started Intercultural Dimensions, a non-profit that offers experiential trips to Senegal, she had invited me to tour a newly revived East Cambridge with its multiple bio-tech organizations and new high rise apartments built to accommodate all their Generation Z workers.

At the end of the day, I asked her how she happened to start reading my blog. “Oh,” she said, “Some years ago, I was sitting in Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris waiting for a delayed flight and started talking with a woman whose flight was also delayed. She recommended “70-something.” and I’ve read it ever since.”

Small world.    

 


I'm Taking a Break

For almost eleven years, I have blogged twice a week at “70-something.com” and (now) “80-something.com”. My goal was to process the decade of my seventies and to be authentic in documenting the challenges and joys of my life. In a way, it was a shared journal. Much to my delight, many of you responded, telling me that my blog posts resonated with you, and my audience grew.

As the decade ended, I published the book 70-Something: Love, Life and Limits in the Bonus Years, a compilation by subject of my (and your) favorites. www.bit.ly/70-something

Of late, I have been thinking that I want to write only on occasion. During the past year, I have faced some challenges that took more out of me than I admitted, even to myself. Now, Peter and I are facing some medical issues (not surprising in our decade) that will require more attention.

But I am not closing down my site, so you haven’t heard the last from me.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you. I wish you all the best, and I encourage you to document your life, wherever you are in it.


Re-inventing our Lives

Peter and I have been “home” for two months now, but we still haven’t determined what our new life is all about. We haven’t worked out a regular schedule of activities because we have been busy seeing friends--and far too many doctors.

We are trying to figure out how to give meaning to the rest of our lives. As my cousin Gerry put it so well, “What can we do to earn our space on this planet and yet not be obligated?” A former colleague used to remind us to always be “on time, dressed, and ready to play”. What does that mean for 80-somethings?

Good questions. No easy answers.


Keeping Up

In all my years of working with graduate students, I tried to stay on top of new technology to know what the students were up to. I remember when the students first got email. I remember a student in the computer lab showing me the amazing Mosaic web browser, pretty much the beginning of the Internet.

Of course Facebook and other social media have touched my life, and yours too. I even have WhatsApp on my phone. And Instagram.

But now I feel I am falling behind. When I recently read that the latest “Alexa” can tell me that I left a light on and then offer to turn it off for me, that was a bit much. And although I still read the technology page in the newspaper every Thursday, I no longer want everything I see. I don’t have an Apple watch so I actually have to look at my phone to see a text and that’s OK with me.

If I really need to know the latest, I can always check in with the grandkids. Isn’t that what all 80-somethings do?


Appointments, Appointments, Appointments

Before we moved to Washington DC last year, we had appointments with all of our doctors in Boston, partly because we wanted to thank them for taking care of us and partly because we were worried that we wouldn’t find such good doctors where we were going.

One of the plusses of our return to Cambridge is that all our doctors are still here and they have welcomed us back.

But each doctor seems to find something to worry about that’s not in their area of expertise. And that leads to more appointments.

I am convinced that going to doctors is what we eighty-somethings do for a living.

That’s why it was such a pleasure to visit our financial advisor the other day. Our financial condition looked healthy, we caught up on each other’s children, and in thirty minutes, we were on our way.

Nothing added to our calendar.


Weekend in New Hampshire

Every September we are one of two lucky couples invited to spend a weekend with close friends at their vacation home on Newfound Lake. We have spent sunny weekends and rainy weekends, cool weekends and warm weekends. They have all been wonderful because when friends have been friends for more than fifty years, the weather doesn’t matter.

Some of us (not me) swam in the still-warm lake. We all walked along the beautiful lakefront. We went for a hike on the Sculptured Rocks Trail on the other side of the lake. On Sunday, we picked apples from the same Cadillac Mountain orchard we’ve gone to for years.

But this year was a little different. As we drove along the lake, I felt nostalgic for the many years that we biked the sixteen miles around it. We didn’t hike as far on the Sculptured Rocks Trail as we used to and this time there was some serious after-lunch napping.

Still, these are our bonus years and that continues to be something to celebrate.


Re-visiting the Forum

During my career at the Harvard Kennedy School, I spent countless evenings attending programs in the school’s Forum. International dignitaries, politicians, outstanding academics, even actors, spoke to enthusiastic audiences almost nightly during the school year. It was the site of student and faculty talent shows, fund-raising auctions and receptions. The Forum was a happening place.

It felt a bit strange to return there one night last week after more than a year’s absence. But we wanted to hear Jill Lepore, Harvard history professor and New Yorker writer talk about her new book, These Truths.

Of course, I knew none of the current students in the audience, but a Forum staff member recognized me and rushed to find seating for us. And I spotted a professor or two I knew and a former Dean of the school who used to introduce events in the Forum and was now just a member of the audience.

I, too, am now “just a member of the audience.”   And that’s okay.