One of the positive things to have happened to me in the weeks since the TD (terminal diagnosis) is my visit to my kinesiologist. He gave me some homework to be done between visits. I was to write a eulogy to be read at my funeral. The timeline that it should cover is from now until the end. “Go on some more adventures Allie,” he said encouragingly. This is what I wrote:-
‘We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of our beloved Allie, who always said her life really took off when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014. The oncologists said that statistically she had 6-12 months to live if she didn’t take up their offer of an operation and chemo. She said she thought she could do a lot better than that with a homeopathic vet she had found. How could animals be accused of responding to the Placebo Effect she thought. The vet was very handsome, which she said made the 2 hour profiling interrogation a great pleasure.
It was at the local and very famous Cancer Care Centre that Allie found a friend with a similar diagnosis and an equally maverick approach to a solution. Together they set up a company called Tatty Bye Inc. and along with the vet set off for the Caribbean, where they spent some years crewing and cooking on board yachts. When the vet moved on to another project, Allie settled in St Lucia where she founded an orphanage for the street children.
When she was 83, with the diagnosis long forgotten, Allie returned to England, declaring that she was now retired. This was not the sort of retirement that her family and friends had envisaged for her. She was by now a vegan, doing yoga daily in her beloved park and gathering around her a colourful collection of young people interested in Huna, a magical practice she had picked up during her yachting trips to Polynesia.
At 89 she had a stroke and died suddenly while in the plank position. Her last words were those of her great hero Wittgenstein,”Tell them I had a wonderful life.”
I don’t think anyone present today would deny this.”
I’ve found in the month that I haven’t been posting that nothing quite focuses the mind like a terminal diagnosis of cancer.
As you saw in my last post I arrived back from camping feeling rather ill. Well it got worse and then one morning I woke up looking like an Oompa Loompa. In no time at all the three oncologists were gathered around my bed. The haunting portrait by Ken Currie (above) that made such an impression on me a couple of years ago in Edinburgh came to mind immediately. He says in an interview on Youtube that when he was observing the three worthy oncologists he had been commissioned to paint, he was struck by the thought that people see cancer as representing the darkness and that these men go in to rescue the poor souls and bring them to the light. Very mythological this may be but is not the story that I am choosing to spin from my diagnosis.
They say that when film was the silver screen the silvering process allowed directors to capture something that the eye could not see. An alchemy took place between the filming and the audience’s reception of what was up there. I think the same alchemy is at work in this painting. The three oncologists are wrapped in a chilling, ghostly light that Ken Currie’s unconscious dictated. They themselves can’t have been pleased with the interpretation. But we the public are mesmerised by the truth behind the image. I guess in art the reception is all. To me the world of oncology IS the very darkness from which those men in their arrogance see themselves helping people to escape.
So what is the story that I am spinning from my diagnosis? Well, it is that I have much to learn from it that I haven’t yet learned. Less a diagnosis and more a dare perhaps. Dare to live life learning right to the end. Dare to keep it going against the odds. Dare to show that a change of diet (cancer loves sugar) I can beat the medics by years. Needless to say I’m taking charge. So it’s no to operations and no to chemo. I’ve always said in my book and my posts that old age is the last but one adventure, so maybe I’ll be going straight on to the last adventure. Old age not being for sissies, this diagnosis could be a sort of get out of jail card.