So – how would you respond to the news that you’ve only got a couple of years left to live?
To be honest, I reckon you won’t know until it happens to you. (And I sincerely hope it doesn’t.)
What surprised me was how calm I felt. I’d already considered the possibility that my cancer was serious, or even terminal. I’d spent some time looking back over my life, and finding plenty that made me happy. And just because the news was the worst possible, I didn’t see any reason to change that opinion.
If you like, I was counting my blessings. And I was also deciding how I would respond to it on my public profile.
The blessings? Almost too many to mention. We live in a beautiful part of the country, in a small community that has become our happy home over the 31 years we’ve lived here. We have a house that we own and enjoy, with a garden which Rosemary lovingly tends and which I enjoy when I can (while doing relatively little towards actually maintaining it. I have yellow thumbs…) We have ample opportunity to make use of such gifts as we have, and often to do that together. Before Judgement Day I’d been slowly winding down into retirement, after a life spent (mostly) doing exactly what I wanted to do. So no regrets there.
Of course there’s some unfinished business. There always is. But all being well I will have just enough time to deal with it.
And the response?
The response of friends, colleagues and family has gone beyond anything I ever expected. I’ve had such a huge outpouring of love and support that it’s almost embarrassing. I keep wondering what I’ve ever done to deserve it.
My response – something I’ve consciously decided – is to accept that in the end this may be a battle I can’t win. But in the spirit of my Viking ancestors I’ve also decided that is no reason not to fight. A Viking warrior would fight even when the battle was already lost, making a glorious last stand until sheer weight of numbers brought him down – and then die with a suitably ironic exit line.
I’m still working one out, though I’ve always loved Spike Milligan’s epitaph: ‘I told you I was ill.’ Except – in this case – I didn’t. I had no idea anything was seriously wrong until Mr Alberts told me so.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun.
So once I knew what was going down I went slightly mad and ordered the replica Viking helmet that inspired this website’s logo from the Royal Armouries. It’s a beautifully made and very serious piece of kit, and for me it symbolises everything I want to do in whatever time I have left. But until now I wouldn’t have dreamed of owning it.
I want to fight for what’s worth enjoying – and take the time to do exactly that. I want to have fun, and do things that so far I’ve only thought about doing. I want to use such gifts as I have, and use them well;
And I want to keep on laughing. I do that a lot. And often because I’m married to a wonderful partner who knows exactly how to make me laugh.