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What Doesn't Kill You…

Susan Love used to say you would know you were cured of breast cancer when you either died of old age or from something else. I distinctly recall hoping it would be old age – and that old age would be, well, REALLY old. I'm beginning to discover that no matter how long you live – when contemplating your own demise, it's never quite long enough.

I remember thinking women in their 40s were old when I was still in my 20s. In fact, I was mortified that my mother had the audacity to be pregnant at that age. How could I explain to my friends that such an old lady still had sex? I have no idea where my worldview came from because I'm quite certain no one ever sat me down and explained to me how you could determine when someone was old. I'm also sure no one ever took it upon themselves to provide me with a list of what was and was not acceptable at a given age. So I guess I just made it all up in my head! And we all know that's a dangerous place.

As each decade passes I find that my idea of old continues to move further into the future. I now look back on 40 (way back) and have to laugh that I ever thought that was old. I'd give my eye teeth (if I still had them) to be that age again. I do have to admit if I was able to time travel backwards, I'd just as soon skip a breast cancer diagnosis at 46, because no matter how you slice it, that has a way of aging anyone.

When I listened to Dr. Love make her comment about breast cancer it never occurred to me I would actually have to worry about anything else. At that point my life was still consumed with all things relating to the disease. If I wasn’t getting a test, I was thinking about it. So when my oncologist told me it was time for a bone density test during my last visit, I didn’t think twice. Sure, bring it on!

Imagine my surprise when I discovered I have osteoporosis in my spine. Me! I’ve been so busy trying to beat breast cancer I hadn’t really been thinking much about how my bones were faring. I've joked over the years that all of the chemo and radiation must certainly have taken a toll on my body – but I never seriously considered the joke just might be on me.

Have you ever noticed that the moment someone tells you something is wrong you begin to buy into it? Prior to hearing the words osteoporosis I was fit as a fiddle. Immediately afterwards I began seriously worrying that all of the snap, crackle and pop I've been hearing wasn't coming from my cereal bowl. Heck, I can turn over at night and hear a virtual symphony of vertebrae clicking and clacking; only I didn't realize until they put a name to it this might be a problem.

I began reading everything I could find about this disease and learned what an important role weight bearing exercise plays – so I'm paying more attention to making sure to include that in my daily routine. I was relieved to learn that walking is considered a weight bearing exercise. I always figured you would have to spend hours in a gym lifting weights (not my favorite pastime.)

I also started thinking more about the calcium I’m getting. I saw Mehmet Oz on a talk show expounding the virtues of goat’s milk. His topic that day was about the "Blue Zones" where people often routinely live well into their hundreds. One such place is Sardinia. According to Dr. Oz, research suggests that goat's milk is not only high in calcium and good for your heart, but contains healthy fats and may also protect against Alzheimer's disease. Oh, and did I mention, they also eat a lot of sardines? I guess it didn’t take a mental giant to come up with the country’s name, huh? Something tells me that the people living in Bologna aren’t nearly as healthy.

Studies show that another determining factor to longevity seems to be who you hang out with. People living in healthy families suffer lower rates of depression, suicide and stress. If TV reality shows are any indicator, our culture is in big trouble. I for one have been looking much more fondly at my siblings. I haven't paid them this much attention since they caught me kissing my boyfriend in the basement way back when and I had to buy them candy to keep them quiet. The little darlings!

Many longevity studies also tout the merits of wine drinking. Unfortunately, for those of us who have had breast cancer, drinking alcohol is not recommended, so I guess this is one area I'll have to skip (wouldn't you know it would be my favorite?) There are times when I wonder if it's better to die old or happy.

To sum it up, it appears I might be able to increase my longevity if I drink goat's milk, eat sardines and hang out with my family. Sort of reminds me of the old saying: I spent a month there one night. Perhaps Sardinians don't really live all that much longer – it just feels like it!