Six months have passed since my cancer diagnosis — advanced prostate cancer (previously I’d always associated the word ‘advanced’ with something good!), and whilst it’s obviously better not to have cancer, there are many plusses.  Trigger warning: I’ve always been a three-quarters full person so you may find what follows insufferably cheerful.

The plusses I’m experiencing, in no order of importance, are as follows:

People are even kinder and more caring than they were before.  They ask, ‘how are you?’ as if they really mean it (they might not, but it’s the asking that counts!), they send get-well cards, they phone, they write emails with helpful advice.  I always thought people were nice, but suddenly they’ve become even nicer.

Having a cancer diagnosis opens up a whole new world: things to learn about the behaviour of those pesky cancer cells, books to read on the metabolic approach to cancer, videos to watch, drugs to research I’d never previously heard of (or cared about), oncologists to meet and quiz.   Fascinating stuff.

Having cancer means I’ve made numerous adjustments (for the better!) to my diet: cutting down on sugar (not easy, sugar lurks in just about everything and cancer cells love it!), filtering water, eating more nuts, more greens, more organic produce, taking sensible supplements and so on.  I’ve even switched from Shredded Wheat for breakfast to organic porridge oats!

Lots of things I enjoyed before, but tended to take for granted, I’ve start to value/enjoy much more: seeing family and friends, going for walks, communing with nature, relishing the arrival of Spring, listening to birds singing, meditating, reading books in the daytime without feeling guilty, sitting outside in the sun and no longer caring about getting skin cancer, playing competitive croquet in beautiful settings.  I have a friend with a private croquet lawn in an exceptionally beautiful garden.  Being invited to play there on summer days could turn me into a poet.  Suddenly all these things have added value.

I have an enhanced sense of energy/purposefulness.  I’m pressing on with writing another collection of short stories with a renewed sense of urgency.  I’m currently on number 18 and I want to get to 25 and publish another paperback before the year is out (or, more importantly, before my life is done!).  Painting watercolours — even if only greeting cards for family and friends — is more fun.  I have even thought of building up a stock so that my grandchildren can continue to receive a hand painted card on their birthdays long after I’ve gone (or is that too macabre?).

I have become more responsible (my wife might — correction, almost certainly will — dispute this!). Little, but important, practical things like making sure bank accounts, utility bills etc are in joint names, making ‘where things are’ lists, showing my wife where the stop cock is and how the boiler works, writing a document saying what I’d like to happen to various possessions, reading through my Will to check (a) that I understand it and (b) whether it needs updating.  Things like that.

Finally, completing the questionnaire my oncologist sends me before my monthly consultations (I’ve just done it, so its fresh in my mind).  This is fun because it is very thorough, with long checklists of ghastly symptoms and side-effects, none of which I’m currently experiencing.  It reminds to be grateful that, thus far, I feel so well.

In summary, at present I’m like the optimist who fell off the top of a skyscraper saying, ‘so far so good’ to himself as he passed each floor level.   


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