FIRST PERSON | In 2006, at 60 years old, I was hired at my local hospital as a unit secretary. My husband and I had recently sold our small business that we owned and operated in Lorain, Ohio and we were in desperate need of medical coverage.
Although I was paid a small salary of $10.00 per hour, the hospital provided excellent medical coverage for part-time employees. I worked a total of 20 hours a week, so I was able to obtain hospitalization for both my husband and myself at very little cost. Medical coverage was a priority over salary until my husband and I were eligible for Medicare.
After being employed at the hospital for three years, my bubble burst when my doctor told me I had cancer. In 2009, an exploratory surgery revealed that I had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was 63 years old, which I learned was the age that most people with my type of blood cancer are diagnosed. Fortunately, the hospital provided free care including diagnostic tests, surgery and chemotherapy. I was given a 6 month leave of absence to begin treatment.
I received eight weekly monotherapy treatments of Rituxan, which is a monoclonal antibody. Twelve weeks after my first treatment, my PET scan proved that I had a complete response to therapy!
Being the hospital only allowed 8 occurrences per year, and I needed two years of Rituxan maintenance which would exceed this limit, it was inevitable that I would be terminated. Hence, I was forced to retire at only 63 years old.
During my two years of maintenance treatments, I resumed my love of writing and had a few articles published in national magazines. I didn’t realize the market was so competitive compared to when I wrote free-lance many years before. I decided to write online which proved to be more profitable than I ever imagined.
Being in remission, I became bored and wished to resume working again. At that time, I was 66 years old. I applied for a part-time position as a receptionist at an assisted living facility. I felt a position such as this would be less stressful than returning to work at the hospital again.
I was hired on the spot, but at the low salary of $8 per hour! However, at this point in my life, I gladly accepted a lesser salary than being employed at a high stress position. This job gives me a reason to live again and I still have the time to resume my favorite profession of writing.
I feel that very few Americans are able to retire in their 60s and most will be working far beyond the retirement ages of their parents. Baby Boomers soon realize working over the age of 65 isn’t an option – it’s a necessity.
I believe a retiree’s biggest fear is the rising cost of medical care and the cost of prescriptions. Even though I’m on Medicare, Medicare Part D and a supplement, all three continue to rise each year. At the rate that premiums are rising and social security benefits increase insignificantly, they may one day equalize. I feel this is the main reason retirees continue to work past the age of 65. Rising medical and prescriptions costs are the sign of the times and I feel it is something we have to deal with in any way we can – for most people the solution is to continue working until they physically or mentally cannot work any longer.
My plans are to continue to work as a receptionist as long as my health holds out or until I need to begin treatment again, for the type of lymphoma I have is not curable. If I don’t relapse in the near future, I have no qualms of working well into my 70s! I enjoy the money I earn and I am fortunate to be able to make purchases that I couldn’t make otherwise.
However, if one day, I do have to resign from my job as a receptionist, I will always be able to continue my profession of writing – the job that is my first love and one that will never end until the day I am no longer able to write.