A mate and I have been joking about me setting up a meth lab if I get the wrong news this week. I’m no Walter White, and I don’t have a family I need to provide for, but it seems to me that the only sensible response to such bad news is to be bold. If they tell me I’ve got the big C and this is the prognosis, the last thing I want to do is eke out my remaining time timidly. In the face of such a stupendous prognosis, I think you must act stupendously.
I don’t know what that would be necessarily, though I’m pretty safe in saying I won’t be cooking meth. And, even if it is Cancer, it doesn’t have to be terminal – and I’ll do everything in my power to fight it off. But doing the same thing as I’ve always done, counting down to the last day? No way.
They’re brave words, and in reality, it would be a lot tougher than making a few grand statements. Presumably, there would be physical constraints – the illness itself and the treatment for it. And, quite possibly, financial obstacles also. But, I won’t go quietly.
I hasten to add, I don’t think this is something I’ll need to contend with – not yet, anyway. It’s probably foolishness, but I feel more confident all the time that it’s just a papilloma, and the sooner we get it out of me, the better.
It occurred to me in considering all this – and I’m doing a lot of thinking! – why does it take something huge like this to act? Why, when it’s almost too late, do we grasp that to live with meaning that we must act?
I’m hoping this is a wake-up call for me and a shot at a second chance. If I get clear of this, I must try to live a life of purpose. Like most people, I’ve ambled along through life, taking it for granted. I’ve had some great adventures and unforgettable moments and experienced wonder along the way, but so have most people. Unlike most people, I don’t even have the comfort of a close family to make me feel I have achieved something important.
What I’ve become aware – or been reminded of – is that everything has an end date. You know it, but it’s so far away, so vague, that it never registers in you until such a time as this. You realise that everything you see, everything you do, everything you hear and feel, will one day become null and void. On Saturday, walking Rigby, I passed by a construction site, and the aroma of freshly cut timber filled my nostrils. It’s a great smell, but I was conscious that I may not get the chance to experience that much more again.
I’m one of those people who would live forever if they could, from curiosity as much as anything else. I think about the things I’ll miss once I’m gone – the science, the music and literature, the books, the sense of an open world still to be fully discovered. It almost hurts to think these things would go on without me.
I’m probably being melodramatic – that’s what you get with an imaginative sensibility. I think I’ll be lucky. I’ll get that second chance and the opportunity to fully appreciate everything I’ve mentioned – and in a way, that would be a gift.
I can’t commit to anything yet, and though I’m quite relaxed, there’s also a tense expectation in the background. I think I know what I need to do if the news is good, but until I get it, I can’t believe in it too much.