- Written by: Karen Kortsch
Listening to the draft submissions of some of our other members, I found that all of the stories shared resonated with me. In the last 4 years, I have experienced retirement, the death of my mother and the death of a brother-in-law who was the same age as I am. My husband and I acted as caregiver and companion to his brother during his almost 2 year cancer journey that ended with his death in July. All of these events have changed the way I look at life and made me more determined to live an authentic life.
I retired at the age of 56 because I was financially able to do so and I felt like my work as a behavioral health nurse was not serving my patients or myself well anymore. I had a lot of moral distress about many aspects of my job and did not look forward to going to work. I definitely did not feel like I could be my authentic self on the job. Four years later I have no regrets and feel privileged to have the time to be a support person to family and friends who have to navigate our unnecessarily complicated health care system. I also am conscious of the need for self care and do not feel guilty in the least that I have the time for rest, recreation and fun. Life is good and spending time with all the wonderful women of UUWC is priceless. Thank you all for your friendship and love.
- Written by: Tracy Jayne McCaffrey
At the age of 63, after working for the Illinois Department of Revenue for 23 years 3 months, I retired. Sitting here some 5 months later, I find myself hoping I don’t end up with the biggest case of buyer’s remorse. I mean, ultimately, life comes down to trading your very existence for the ability to continue to exist. In this case I traded a all those years at IDOR for the pension, and some other benefits, I now receive. But is that going to be enough? Did I make a colossal mistake? How much time do I really have left?
We encounter many milestones throughout our lives; many of which we look forward to with eager anticipation. But retirement carries with it a sense of being one of the last milestones you get to experience while still alive. I definitely looked forward to it while I was still working! And yet, the last few months haven’t exactly been a nonstop celebration. Christmas morning with pretty presents under the tree it’s not. It could, of course, be a whole lot worse. I mean, I could still be working at the Department of Revenue!
- Written by: Diana DeWeese
I’ve been waiting almost 40 years for the bad news. The news that I had breast cancer. My mother was diagnosed in her 60’s with invasive ductal carcinoma. She found out after her very first mammogram. She had one modified radical mastectomy and less than a year later the cancer had developed in her other breast. It was also removed. Her diagnosis was quickly followed by her older sister’s diagnosis – both breasts removed. One younger sister had one breast removed. As time progressed, another had a lumpectomy and radiation treatments. I don’t know if my Aunt N was in denial or just wanted to ignore the cancer in her breast, but too late she saw a doctor. By that time the breast cancer had spread to her liver. She died. My mother and her other sisters are/were breast cancer survivors.
So, for decades now, I have had annual mammograms. Occasionally I’d get a call back, but it would be a cyst. Nothing to worry about. A couple years ago, I paid for a genetic screening to see if I have any of the genes that lead to breast cancer. Six different breast cancer causing genes were tested. I was negative on all of them. I thought I was home free. My annual exam with my primary care physician was December 12. No issues, no lumps. I almost canceled my mammogram scheduled for December 21 - Solstice, but I went ahead and had the screening. A few days later I got a phone call. Need to come back for another mammogram and an ultrasound on January 8. Two days later, a needle biopsy. A call from my primary care physician’s nurse. Please come to the office the next day on Friday, January 13th. I asked the nurse “Tell me. Is it Cancer? I’m strong. I can take it.” She said “Yes”. So the appointment with my doctor was anticlimactic. I knew. She knew I knew.
- Written by: Pat Hyams
“They” say the top two stressors in life are losing and spouse and moving from one location to another. Both happened to me in the past 18 months. My husband, Ron, passed away in February of 2022. In May, 2023, I moved to a two-bedroom condominium.
Paring down my possessions in preparation for moving meant countless trips down Memory Lane and equally countless trips to the Good Will Store. I moved into my new condo in May and began making it my own. Living in my new home, I have felt the full impact of adjusting to widowhood and living alone. I can feel myself changing and am finally able to look beyond my circumstances and wonder what the world has in store for my next chapter. I am no longer a wife; no longer a caregiver; still a mom and still a grandma. I have always been afraid of living alone and the powerful feelings of loneliness can be intense. However, I have learned to lean into these feelings rather than running from them. I discovered that living alone isn’t so bad after all and can actually be really nice. Another discovery: sometimes feelings are like bullies. They look big and bad and menacing, but when you stand and face them, they just kind of evaporate. After all, they are just feelings. Keep breathing and you’ll get another one in no time.