Well there’s nothing particularly lucky about having a terminal illness, but putting a few things in to context has helped me see the brighter side of life.
Back in November I wasn’t allowed to drive. The medics suspected my Bell’s palsy might be brain cancer and stopped me getting behind the wheel. Part of me was determined to cope alone. Public transport would have to do the job.
A conversation with my ex-wife of all people helped me to realise that those close to me felt helpless. They wanted to do something but there was nothing they could do. By rejecting any offers of help I was making my diagnosis even more difficult for others to handle.
My stepson came through first, making a three hour round trip to ferry me to a hospital appointment. My sister has attended a number of appointments with me and is now Britain’s number one expert on lung cancer treatments and might actually be my best hope for getting onto some life saving trial in the future. My step-daughter and her wife gave up several hours of a Saturday to transport me from my home to see my son – and back again. My ex-wife repeated the journey the following week.
These were all significant time commitments from people with other things going on in their lives. They came through for me. I got the all clear to drive again soon after and have been self sufficient since, but I feel confident that as and when I decline I’ll be supported. That’s massive for me and, I think, helpful to them as well. It’s not just me dealing with my cancer, it’s a big thing for other people too – that wasn’t obvious to me at first.
Work colleagues have been amazingly supportive too, even though I’ve been signed off sick since the end of October. I’m amazingly lucky that a redundancy due in May that I feared pre-diagnosis has now given me the opportunity to fund travel that I may never quite have got around to doing had I been healthy. And my employer has been supportive too in a way that has gone well beyond what the rule book requires them to do.
Friends have been great too. Keeping in touch, meeting up and more. Offers of accommodation in Australia. And free airport parking! Not to mention the stranger off a football message board who lives in Brisbane and will be attending the first test with me.
I’ve got insurance policies paying out. I’ve got some savings. I’ve got a sizeable redundancy cheque due. I understand enough about my pension scheme to mean I don’t have to do a Walter White to support my kids.
I mentioned context before. I know a guy with three young children and a similar prognosis to me. Putting myself in his shoes would damage me. Another friend I met for lunch told me about a guy who lost his 14 year old son to cancer. That’s a situation I don’t think I could ever come to terms with. And it’s a list that goes on.
I’m in a good place. I’ve got things to look forward to. I’ve got the finances in place to support those plans. I’ve got great family and friends. My kids are doing well for themselves. And there are others out there fighting their own battles who might somehow be coping with a little less than I have. They’re amazing.
And there are new treatments coming through which might just give me more life than even the experts thought possible a couple of months back.