So, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything here but you don’t need to worry, nothing’s gone wrong health wise. Check ups have come and gone as they tend to and nothing untoward has been found so I keep sticking the stocking to my leg every day and generally just going about my life as if nothing ever happened. The only problem is, something did happen and right about now seems as good a time as any to reflect upon things.
Today I went for one of my semi-regular appointments with the Oncology department and had yet another stranger give my naked body a good going over – it’s becoming so natural now that I occasionally forget to wear clothes out of the house and frequently offer strangers the chance to ‘check out my scars’. There was no change in the markings on my skin, the scars are still there (always will be, I guess) while the strange sensation of someone prodding and poking my thigh with absolutely no sensation making its way to my brain is still unnerving. All in all, it was a relatively uneventful appointment until five innocuous words were uttered by the Junior Doctor as I left; “Keep doing what you’re doing”. These words might not seem like much on the surface but two years on after being told I only had 12 months to live, I feel like I have not only cheated death but also allowed myself to (so far) evade cancer coming back. So, what is it I’m doing and how can we bottle this elixir of life and cure for cancer? Here’s a handy guide;
- Cry – I cry quite a lot but, you must understand, not the tears of despair or helplessness. No, my tears are for beautiful songs I’d forgotten about, moments of importance with my family or those unavoidable (and seemingly omnipotent) film scenes where the kid has to grow up without a parent or somebody dies of cancer. I’m not advocating becoming a blubbering mess 24/7 but letting real and honest emotions bubble up to the surface from time-to-time is a healthy thing and although I know it makes my other half exasperated when she walks in to the room to find me sobbing at a bank advert (again), it is still an important part of the healing and developing process.
- Laugh – at everything. The humour in my household strays in to some pretty dark territory sometimes but, much like Nazis, one of the best ways to deal with cancer is to laugh at it. Laugh at the times you stick your hand to your leg with skin adhesive for the 35th time, laugh at the fact that getting a CT scan in the back of a lorry in a hospital car park feels like you’re being trafficked in an elaborate hiding place or laugh at the fact that your son says things like “when I’m bigger, I’m going to wear a stocking and have one big leg like daddy!”.
- Notice Little Things – this one might sound a little cheesy but enjoying the snow as the flakes settle on the window ledge, listening to the sea or staying out for that extra drink because someone has just got a round in and you’re having a good time – these are all important things and things that I didn’t think I’d be doing anymore. Noticing negative things is cool too, like getting stuck in traffic, village politics or the futility of the day job but just make sure you don’t let it drag you down for too long.
- Eat Well – now this one has two parts so listen carefully. Firstly, eat the healthy stuff like plenty of fruit, water and loads of fresh veg – I have recently been converted to spiralizing vegetables and I can feel my 21-year-old self ribbing me mercilessly about it but I’m cool with that, I was a bit of a douche at 21 anyway. Secondly, eat the really bad stuff too. If life is going to be unexpectedly curtailed, then nobody wants to be prostrate on their death bed thinking “I’m so glad I had that quinoa casserole instead of that curry and two pints of Cobra”. Life is too short regardless so enjoy the good food, savour the flavours and, if it’s really good, go for seconds.
- Be Decisive – this one has been particularly hard for me, but life is all about choosing and for far too long I worried about making the right decisions. I’m not saying I’ve become a reckless, devil-may-care fella but if the last two years have taught me anything it’s that decisions don’t have a huge impact before the next decision comes along so it’s not worth sweating over. So make a decision, live with the consequences and learn from the path you go down. The most important thing for me has been to give my bucket list some serious thought because two years ago all I could think about was taking a hot air balloon ride. I haven’t ticked that one off the list yet, but I’ve got a load more on the list now and it’s currently topped off with writing more stuff for more people.
You can call it a five-step plan if you like but one thing I’m not preaching is that you follow my example in any way, shape or form. This is what is working for me and what is keeping me alive but for others it’s running marathons, climbing mountains or dragging fridges across a country in a shopping trolley (that last one might be made up but I’m sure someone has tried it). Anyway, the bottom line is that I’m two years in to a one-year sentence and one year away from marrying the most amazing woman on top of a cliff in Cornwall and I’m living life. My life. The way I want to. Maybe that’s the secret.