Retirement may come sooner than you expect. Plan ahead, advises one Philadelphia doctor.

What cancer taught a Philly doctor about planning for retirement

I did not plan on retiring, but life threw me a curveball: cancer.

People get thrown cancer curveballs every day, and they are scary. Cancer changes your plans. For me, my slow recovery compelled me to leave the cardiology practice that I loved, and I stopped writing.

Retiring early for health reasons is hard. I know I am not alone. By sharing these reflections and advice, I hope to shed some light and inspiration.

Each week, my office forwards me a stack of cards and letters. They are from patients expressing gratitude for the care they received and concern for my health.

It never occurred to me before to write a letter of appreciation to a physician. As the recipient, I can share that receiving these notes or cards has been validating, comforting, and appreciated. These words have given me joy as I regain my strength.

And for the kindness of health professionals.

There have been so many breakthroughs in cancer care. Research is ongoing. There is hope.

There is nothing easy about undergoing cancer treatment. I am thankful to every health care professional who took the time to know me as an individual, as well as a cancer patient.

I spent my entire career insured by a single commercial health insurance plan. This privilege ended when I retired. I began my journey into Medicare with many questions.

Although I practiced medicine for more than 35 years, my patients’ health insurance was handled by office staff. I knew little about the process. In my naivete, I thought that once a person turns 65, and received Medicare, health insurance would be taken care of. That is not the case.

I soon learned about all the different options for coverage. Navigating different plans was overwhelming. In the end, I hired a consultant to figure it all out.

» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Medicare open enrollment for 2023

That’s the cardiologist in me — I can’t help but recommend physical fitness. I still try to exercise almost every day. At first, that meant walking 50 feet without falling. Now, I am back working up a sweat.

Throughout my illness and treatment, I was told I may have become much sicker if I had not stayed physically fit.

stay busy

I have been advised to find new hobbies and interests. This is easier said than done.

Writing had been one of my favorite pastimes, which I could not do for months after surgery. I did not realize how much I would miss it. It’s nice to be back.

David Becker is a board certified cardiologist who recently retired after 30 years of clinical practice. Beckersix@comcast.net.

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