Last week I found out a friend of mine died. He’d had the same cancer as me, he was 10 years older, his cancer had come back and he died.
Just before he died he’d invited me to an event on Facebook and I’d watched him smiling in a Facebook live video as he worked in Dublin with friends of mine doing research on dance and theatre in the Irish capital.
His death was sudden (he died during an operation), it wasn’t the long drawn out cancer story that we are used to hearing.
He was hopeful, full of life, an amazing character, he could play any instrument and bought joy to people he met.
His death brought home all my fears of dying. Fears that don’t surface often. After nearly 10 years all clear I’ve learnt to manage them and have got on with my life. But knowing that someone I liked could be all clear and then get it back and then die, made me struggle with my own demons.
I remember a good friend of mine who works in a hospital telling me (before I had cancer) that it comes back with everyone. Cancer always gets you in the end.
This comes back to me at moments like this and I crumple. I do not want to die. Not yet anyway.
So these fears got me to thinking, what would I do if I knew I had 10 years left? What would you do if you knew you had 10 years left?
My friend died when he was 10 years older than me. And earlier this year a family friend also died 10 years older than me. She had a different cancer, but we had our daughters at the same age, were diagnosed with cancer about the same age, and she is now dead 10 years later than me.
So what if I knew I would die in 10 years at 50? What would I do differently?
One of the things having cancer has taught me is to cherish life. My daughter often catches me crying and she knows it’s because of the cancer. We’ll be laughing and then I’ll be crying because I’m so overwhelmed that I’m still alive. Or we’ll be cuddling and then I’m crying.
If I had been diagnosed in 1999 instead in 2009 I would probably dead now. Thank goodness for advances in cancer treatment, they can do amazing things now.
And I know there are people not as lucky as me and it’s as if life has a golden glow for me now. All of it. And I have to see that as a gift.
Life is so precious. You are so lucky to be reading this. You are so lucky that you woke up this morning. Everyday you get another day you are so lucky.
While writing this I got a message from another friend telling me her cancer had come back.
I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with the next 10 years, or the next 10 after that, or the 10 after that, but it’s something I’m working on.
Thinking about 10 years means that you can’t just throw everything up in the air – it’s a long enough period that you have to carry on, paying the mortgage, seeing friends and family. But are there things you want, things you wanted to achieve, places you wanted to go, experiences you want to have?
If you only have 10 years, you suddenly have to let go of fear and go after those things you want.
What are you going to do with your next 10 years to make the most of this beautiful gift of life?