When I heard this word used recently, twice, I thought it was one of my father's made-up words like "surgerize" and "confliction" risen from his memory to finally enter the world of Merriam-Webster. And so they have, sort of. Apparently, "maturation" is a word some doctors use to answer any and all questions asked by patients inquiring as to why something or other health-wise is happening to them. In short, "maturation" means wear and tear. If Mick Mulvaney were the doctor, he might have said: "It happens all the time. Get over it!" Fortunately, he wasn't. Rather, he is the acting White House Chief of Staff, a man who likewise may be asking his doctor a few questions. The answers to which will likely not be "maturation." "What were you thinking?" might be first and foremost.
For a cancer patient (yours truly) who has survived above and beyond the call of his oncologist's original prognosis, "maturation," to quote Boston Red Sox television announcer – and Hall of Famer – Dennis Eckersley, "is a beautiful thing." Diagnosed at age 54 and a half when all bodily functions were "performing within normal parameters," to quote Commander Data from "Star Trek: Next Generation," thinking I'd outlive my original prognosis from late February, 2009, and have senior-type moments 10-plus years later, was unrealistic, if I were to interpret my oncologist's rather grim demeanor.
Yet here I am, Medicare card in wallet, and still writing cancer columns as if cancer was only an astrological sign rather than the dreaded – and feared – disease that it is. However, having cancer doesn't mean that I don't experience similar aches and pains as the rest of you. It simply means "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" A sarcastic reference to the fact that other things are still occurring, despite the obvious. Cancer doesn't preclude other older age medical realities from rearing their predictable ugly head: gray hair, bone loss, muscle weakness, memory loss, to name a few; it just complicates them, and in so doing, confuses you.
It complicates them by ignoring them for fear that they are cancer-related and thus life-threatening, and visiting a doctor would merely confirm your worst fear: dying/death, an upside down version of what you don't know not hurting you. And by neglecting to see a doctor, the symptom (for me, it was a pain in my upper left arm/shoulder which turned out to be a rotator cuff problem) becomes worse and more severe than it otherwise would have become if you simply went to the doctor in the first place, and you end up suffering needlessly because it's actually not cancer, it's "maturation.'' So you're confused like "Bob's Big Boy" used to be: You don't know whether to stay or go.
When you're diagnosed with a "terminal" disease," you want to live, but it's extremely difficult not to think about dying. It dominates your brain and preoccupies your mind. Old age and living a full retirement become signposts in the distance that you can never quite read. And since you can never quite read them, you're not really prepared for what they say. Some of what they say – or infer, is that you're going to be visiting doctors more regularly than you ever have, and it's not necessarily all bad. It's merely a sign of your times which are now changing and you're living beyond a certain age, unexpected as it may have initially been suggested. As such, maintenance will be required to keep the older body and brain functioning. Ignoring symptoms, as my doctors have made clear to me, is NOT GOOD. Neither is assuming that such and such or so and so is good, bad or indifferent. It is what it is and It may be something or it may be nothing. Presuming facts and feelings which are not yet in evidence is a bit like putting the cart in front of the horse.
I know I'm afraid of dying. What these more recent pains and subsequent visits to the doctors have also shown me is that I can't be afraid of living.