Ageless.

Time is such a strange thing. Some days I am sure that I’m fresh out of college, feeling like the world is my oyster and all my best days are still ahead of me. Some days I talk to my high school girls and I think “I get you girl, I was just there a couple years ago.” I remember when 50 was old and when all professional athletes were way older than me. I remember going to the doctor’s office and every doctor, nurse and PA had at least 10 years on me. 

Well, I am actually a little older than just out of college, 50 feels young and instead of feeling like I am older-sister-age to my girls, I have realized I’ve got a couple years on some of their mothers. When I watched the Super Bowl this year I had the sinking realization that I am nearly 10 years older than most of the players on the field (Tom Brady excluded…what a beast) and I’ve walked into a fair share of doctor’s appointments lately that felt like I was on the set of Doogie Howser MD.

Further proof of the strange age/time continuum is that the majority of my favorite activities are ones most people would associate with the AARP population – knitting, napping, puzzles, talking about the good ol’ days. Yet, I can still hang in a conversation with teenagers full of the latest TikTok trends, popular memes and slang.

Adding to the confusion is my physical state. I could still be confused for a high school student. For Halloween last year, I dressed in a school uniform, put my hair in a high bun, threw in some Apple headphones and walked through the yard and in through the back door. Our girls were convinced I was a new student coming over for the Halloween party.

Halloween costume evidence.

However, I am 35 years old and fully menopausal. In my mind, I could go out for a run if I wanted to, I just don’t want to – I’ve never wanted to run. I think back two years ago to the triathlon I ran or the half marathon or last fall when I was kicking butt working out every day with some of my girls and I imagine I am still in that kind of shape. But the truth is, I can barely get dressed in the morning without getting winded.

Let me back up a little bit and bring you up to date. My last update was the week of Christmas and I had just come home from another stay in the hospital. I had three blood clots in my lungs (Pulmonary Embolisms) and one of them had blocked circulation to a small portion of my right lung for long enough that I lost lung tissue. Just after the new year, I followed up with my family doctor. I was feeling discouraged because it had been a week and I wasn’t feeling any better. She helped give me perspective when she told me it would take months for the clots to clear themselves. 

Months.

Fast forward to the beginning of February. I had reached out to my team at Penn because my heart rate was not dipping below 80 beats per minute and on occasion was averaging around 90 beats per minute while I was at rest. I only know this because I wear my Fitbit Versa religiously. They assured me that I was still in the “normal” range, but scheduled an appointment for me with a Cardio-oncologist {super niche cardiologists who are well-versed in oncology and the impact cancer treatments can have on the heart}. 

Then, at my visit with my oncologist the week after, he was a little concerned that I was feeling no improvement in breathing from my PE’s. My vital signs were good when I checked in, but he hooked me up to a pulse oximeter and had me walk the hall. A pulse oximeter measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. For a quick anatomy and physiology lesson, lets talk about the heart, lungs and oxidation {I took college level A&P and I have been a patient for almost six years, so consider me a expert novice in these things}. The right side of the heart receives blood from your body and pumps blood into your lungs to pick up oxygen to carry back out to the rest of your body. The oxygenated blood then goes into the left side of the heart which pumps it all throughout your body – to limbs, organs and your brain. It’s kind of an important process to life. Normal oxygen saturation in your blood is 95-100%. When I was at rest, my levels were between 99% and 100%, which is great! However, with a moderate walk, 20 feet up the hall and 20 feet back down, my oxygen levels dipped down into the mid 80’s. I recovered well when I was at rest again, which is great, but that drop in oxygen while in movement earned me an appointment with another specialist (a pulmonologist),  a stern warning to not overdo it and it almost earned me at home supplemental oxygen. 

To say I am discouraged would probably be an understatement. I am mourning the loss of health in a way I haven’t had to yet. Through each of my very hardest cancer treatments I always had a sense that I just needed to push through a short loss of normal and vitality to reach a more permanent and better health on the other side. And with all my treatments, that had been the case. On the other side of them – and sometimes in the midst of them – I was still able to be active, to run, to hike, to bike or swim, to run and play with Owen and Myra. The irony now is that this is the easiest treatment I have undergone so far and yet I feel the frailty of the combined five years of treatments on my body in a way I somehow {ignorantly} imagined myself to be impervious to. I am constantly fatigued, achy from too much sitting and left wondering if all my best days are behind me.

I remember one time a couple years ago having a conversation with my mother-in-law. We were talking about age and how we feel (mentally) so much younger than we are. She said something that I will never forget. She said that she has always felt like in those moments, when your body is aging and failing, but you still imagine yourself youthful, it is evidence that we were made to be eternal. Our soul knows no age and yet the bodies we are trapped in are a continual reminder of the broken world we live in.

So I am naming my losses and I am mourning them and probably will until the day my ageless soul is separated from my stupid broken body. However, if I spent all my days thinking about my losses I would find myself in a pit of self-pity and despair before I knew it. The only way I know to avoid that pit is to find gratitude in what I have not lost. Topping the list of things I am grateful for are the genes I have been given that allow me to still pass for a kid and the great hope of knowing a Savior who has redeemed both the brokenness of my current circumstances and my soul for eternity. 

I will not let the darkness steal the joy within my soul
I will not let my circumstances becomes my compass, no
I will not let the fears of life and sorrows of this world dictate to my how I should feel
For you are my True North
Rend Collective "True North"

6 thoughts on “Ageless.

  1. Ashley thanks for sharing in your most beautiful way!! I will continue to pray for strength and healing for each new day! You are such an encouragement and inspiration🥰🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

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  2. Continued prayers Ashley! We think of you all, praying for better health and the strength to endure. Thank you for sharing more of your story.

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  3. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I swear your thoughts are a replica of mine. It feels good to know that someone can relate to my struggles and that reaffirms that I am not loosing my mind. No matter how much time we spend on earth, the goal has always been to end up in Heaven with our Lord and Savior.

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  4. thanks for sharing your journey into yourself, your health, and how to surge ahead even when times are tough, It gives us all inspiration,yet thankful that what we are going thru, could always be worse if we didn’t have the Lord by our side every step of the way, even when we fall down, he picks us back up, holds our hand and tells not to worry for tomorrow is another day and a new dawning for us to do our best, even when times aren’t so hot, Hang in there, keep doing what your doing, we all love you and pray for you everyday, NEVER FORGET THIS! Dave Frehafer

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