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An Unexpected Present

Not that I minded it in the least (in fact, I appreciated it in the most), but I received my first senior discount the other day. I was fast-fooding at my local Roy Rogers restaurant when the unexpected kindness occurred. Considering that I’m not at the age yet when such discounts are typically available, I certainly did not (do not) presume that my appearance somehow reflects an age which I am not. In truth, I don’t believe it does. So even though I didn’t ask for the age-related discount, I was offered/given it nonetheless. As the cashier tallied my bill, she then spoke the price and adjusted it downward 10 percent for my surprise "senior" discount. On hearing the lower price and the reason for it, I immediately responded: "Oh, you’re giving senior discounts to people over 40?" To which she replied, while looking me directly in the eye: "No. Over 30." Laughing at her quick-thinking quip, I thanked her again for the discount and commended her on her excellent answer/customer service.

Without making this too much a cancer column, a terminal diagnosis at age 54 and a half sort of means that certain realities, benefits and inevitabilities (if you live long enough, which after receiving my diagnosis/prognosis seemed unlikely) are off the table; heck they’re likely on the floor waiting to be swept up and placed in the trash bin (been and gone, you might say). I refer generally to the kinds of things associated with turning 65: retirement, Social Security, Medicare, and of course, "senior discounts." After hearing what I heard, reaching age 55 seemed challenging enough.

To be honest though, and you regular readers know I’m honest, maybe painfully so; after receiving the incredibly discouraging and grim news concerning my diagnosis from my oncologist five years ago, I didn’t really think about the parts of my life that I would be missing since my future was, at that point, seriously in doubt. If I recall, my mindset back then wasn’t on the future I was losing because of my disease, it was more about the present that I was living and being as proactive as possible to try and live as long as I could. Moreover, given the rather morbid tone I was hearing from my oncologist, it sounded as if I’d be lucky to have a present, let alone a future. A "13-month to two-year prognosis" (out of the blue no less; I was asymptomatic and a lifelong non-smoker) followed by an admission from my doctor that he can’t "cure me, but he can treat me;" and a further reply to my wife Dina’s query as to why there aren’t any parades for lung cancer survivors, as there seem to be for breast cancer survivors: "Because there aren’t any" (survivors that is) hardly reinforce a lung cancer patient’s future prospects.

Yet here I write, nearly five years post-diagnosis, receiving the previously (given my life expectancy) unimaginable senior discount. And though there are likely fewer guarantees now and even less certainty for a stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer survivor five years out and still living, I don’t discount the significance of any discounts. At this juncture, I deserve any I can get. Besides, I think I’ve earned them.