This may be the most difficult article I've written so far. I can't guarantee all of you will read through to the end. As a society, we find the topic I am writing about uncomfortable and often give it little regard, certainly people of my age.
So, death, dying, kicking the bucket, passing away or taking the stairway to heaven. Call it what you will, with life comes death and inevitably, at some stage we will all die. Yet why are we so reluctant to talk about it? The wedding and new baby industry is huge, with ceremonies, traditions, pomp and often months, if not years of organisation. Hatching and matching are integral events in our society, yet when it comes to dispatching, how many of us can honestly say we have given the celebration of our life any real thought or consideration?
Though my situation is, sadly, not unique, it has jolted my friends, family and I to have an honest think about how we would like to be remembered and celebrated. Before I was given six months to live, I hadn't really thought about death or my funeral. I was 33 and just had my second child. Having recently given birth, death was the farthest thing from my mind, despite them being intrinsically linked. A few quick calls to friends has revealed I'm not on my own. Some have thought about writing their wills, but most are putting it off for when they have more time. None have thought about their funerals.
But what if we don't have time? What if you got run over by a bus on the way to work? Would your loved ones know your final wishes? What songs you'd like? Which readings you would choose to have read? Whether you want people to wear black? Before a dark cloud fell over our house, I have to confess I didn't know if my husband wanted to be buried or cremated. We just hadn't got round to that discussion, assuming we wouldn't need to until we were both rocking in our chairs in the cheapest nursing home our kids could get away with.
We have had to have that conversation now and of course it was punctuated with tears. But after having it, there was a great sigh of relief. Hopefully we won't need to put our plan into action just yet, but as and when we do, my hubby knows what I would like and how best to send me off.
Death is not something people like to confront. It is associated with being scared, questioning 'why me?' sadness, anger and regret and uncertainty and panic for the future. Yet I'm not afraid of dying (don't think I want to - I would much rather have been given my miracle be cured and go back to living a normal life and would literally try anything to get to that situation). I am in a fortunate position (unless that pesky bus gets me), that we should have a fair indication when I'm going to head to the clouds. I will be surrounded by my loved ones, in comfort and will get the chance to say my final farewells.
Many assume I must be angry to be facing a premature death, questioning why did this have to happen to me? I am not angry, it's not a case of why me, but why not me? Cancer is often indiscriminate. I didn't smoke, take drugs or drink excessively. Yet I still have it in my lungs and liver. There is in fact a school of thought that suggests we all have the ability to have cancer within our bodies, it's just a question of a trigger igniting those cancerous cells. I have no regrets. Regrets are just decisions you made at a moment in time, when you thought it was the right decision. I stand by all of mine, even accepting a job as a button counter in a clothes factory. Those decisions are what got me here today, surrounded by friends and family who love me.
People will question me if I feel cheated that I may not accomplish everything in my life I would have wanted too. I don't see it like this - if I really wanted to do something, we would somehow make it work and be possible. I urge anyone not to put off their dreams for tomorrow. Tomorrow may never come and there will always be excuses. If you really want to do something, then do it now. Make it happen.
And although, obviously I am devastated to the point it physically hurts that, statistically (which I refuse to adhere to!), it's unlikely I'll be around to see my children finish school, start their adult life and go on to have families of their own, I am comforted to know I have built the foundations for a life of love, generosity, honesty and integrity. They will always be surrounded by others who will love and guide them through their lives. And so I cannot worry for their future. They have love in their hearts, precious memories and given our family medical history, a priority for early screening.
I have tried to live my life as full as I can, leaving a legacy for my children to be proud of. For me, this is working with Lord Saatchi to help get support for his Medical Innovation Bill, encouraging doctors to think beyond the 'standard practice' they invariably follow. Everyone should try to leave this earth a little better than they found it, leaving their mark in whatever they are good at. It may be baking, painting, writing or doing something wonderful with modern science. Be proud of your life and what you've achieved.
Death isn't something that should be feared and pushed under the carpet. It is far better to accept it, plan for it, and then crack on living a life friends and family will be proud to celebrate. That's certainly my intention.
You can read about my daily adventures at lifeasasemicolon.blogspot.uk