Part 16: Baltimore Bucket List Begins With Unexpected Twist

Joan London with Sheldon Sherman and Other Friends

Welcome, Joan’s Journeyers. This Joan’s Journey installment is overdue and I apologize. My intentions were on time, but life — or should I say death — got in the way. Recently, a very dear, longtime friend, Sheldon Sherman, passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. I dedicate this piece to him and his brave and devoted wife, Stephanie Block-Sherman.

By now you’re probably asking, “What’s the relevance of your friend’s death to a journey to senior housing,” or “Do I want really want to read this?” Hang with me a few minutes and I’ll explain, for the diversion is meaningful to you too.

During the last weeks of Shel’s life, I visited him several times. He had the gift of putting me and every visitor at ease as he discussed football, life in general, and his relationship with the visitor. Shel was a role-model for grace in dying.

On our last visit, as his strength was waning, he took my hand, his sparkling, dark brown eyes looked straight into mine, and he unexpectedly said, “Take care of yourself.” My dying friend was concerned about my health and my future. I was overwhelmed. With tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I promised this exceptionally wonderful man I would do my best.

Bucket List Item #1: Taking Care of One’s Self

Which leads us to Baltimore Bucket List Item #1: Take care of yourself. Now, exactly what does that mean? With Shel gone, that’s a request and a promise I’ll have to explore while in Baltimore and as I move along the road to senior housing.

On a less philosophical level, “taking care of yourself” means having an annual flu shot and other important vaccinations. Therefore, off I went to my doctor’s office. My physician and I discussed the availability of a stronger flu vaccine for seniors. He then asked if I was up-to-date with my pneumonia vaccination. We further discussed the availability of a shingles vaccination recommended for seniors.

Then my physician dropped his bombshell, and my “take-care to-do” list took an unexpected turn. “Have I had a whooping cough vaccination in recent years?” he asked. “Whooping cough?” I repeated in total surprise. “Is whooping cough still around? Why do I need a whooping cough vaccination?”

My physician explained that infants, toddlers and seniors are at greatest risk for whooping cough. In the case of seniors, their vaccinations from childhood may have lost their immunity. His recommendations for seniors include yearly flu vaccinations, up-to-date pneumonia vaccinations, whooping cough vaccinations, and individual patient consideration of the shingles vaccination.

Journeyers, are you up-to-date with your vaccinations? What vaccines have your physicians recommended? Until the next post, enjoy the journey day-by-day.

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Written by Joan London, a freelance medical and social service writer, who plans to relocate from Baltimore to a senior housing community close to her children in Southern California.

Read Part 17 of Joan’s Journey: Life Lessons Expand Baltimore Bucket List.