This year I faced Death. Not in a fleeting moment. We didn’t bump shoulders. No. Death and I stared each other straight in the eye.
It wasn’t the first time. In August 2015 my heart stopped during emergency surgery I’d required due to internal bleeding.
Interestingly that also wasn’t the first time…
No, it appears Death has hovered around me my whole life…from a near miss during my mum’s pregnancy (that’s her story to tell, not mine), to toxic shock from an allergic reaction to medication to being knocked down by a car (to name a few encounters).
You’d think my life long dance with Death would have made me wake up and realise that there was some message I was meant to receive. That Life was trying to tell me something…
On reflection now I realise that each encounter was more profound and extreme than the previous. Almost as if Life was shouting that little bit louder to get me to pay attention.
But no…in fact, it had the opposite effect. Instead of making me live for the moment it made be subconsciously believe that I was invincible, that I could survive all of this and so could put off my hopes and dreams until tomorrow…
That is until my cancer diagnosis.
For some reason, whilst brief encounters with Death had had no impact, the knowledge that it would now walk beside me for ever more was an entirely different story. Suddenly I was all to aware of my mortality.
True it didn’t taken just any cancer diagnosis. No, I was gifted a non-genetic, stage IV, possibly inoperable, ovarian cancer that ‘shouldn’t have happened’ to a thirty year old.
Life’s message had finally been received and I was listening.
I remember the week before my big surgery. My husband took some holiday from work and I made a list of things I wanted to do. I never said it to him at the time but Death was with us at every moment. I was overwhelmed by the thought of not waking up from my surgery. It was to be a massive operation – the largest they’d done in one sitting – and that was frightening enough without the added concern that the last time I’d been on an operating table my heart had stopped. The surgeon had been brutally honest that there was more than the usual operation risk I wouldn’t wake up.
So, I had one week and I wanted to make it count. And, as a result, for the first time, I mindfully chose how to spend my time. I wasn’t wasting a second. Nothing was taken for granted.
- I told people how much they meant to me. I loved them without reservation;
- I had a picnic in a local park and invited everyone I knew (it was awesome);
- I went out for amazing meals – I’m a foodie afterall;
- I went to an aquarium – I LOVE water;
- I spent time with my family;
- I walked my dog and ran about in nature;
- I went to the theatre.
The result? I realised what makes me happy and what truely matters in life.
Where you work, where you live, what you wear, what you drive; how big your house is; how much money you have…it’s all nothing. Nothing. Nothing! NOTHING!
Who you truly are; who you love; what makes you smile; what makes your heart sing…now that’s something! That’s what life is really all about!
In those few days I learnt more about Life and where my joy lies than I could have in a lifetime.
This is why I’m so grateful for my cancer. This is why I’m so positive and filled with love and joy and a childlike passion for life. And, if I’m totally honest, this is why I’m not ashamed to say I love mermaids and unicorns and glitter and sparkles.
You see, I am me! And I’m so proud of being me! Every day is a blessing and I’m so grateful to be healthy enough today to enjoy this very moment.
If I had one wish it would be that everyone reading this would just embrace the reality that we are not promised tomorrow so we must live today unashamed of who we are; we should love with all of our heart and we should laugh as loud as we can and as often as we can (even if only at ourselves)!
The day before my surgery I planned to write letters to those who mattered most to me, just in case. In the end, I never did because I’m a strong believer of ‘tempting fate’ and fortunately those letters weren’t needed as I’m still here. But, this gave me a hidden gift because now I know who I would write a letter too if I had to say goodbye. I know every single soul in this world who means so much to me that I’d want to tell them. But that’s not the gift…the real gift is I get to appreciate this knowledge every single day and make sure I show them so that, if the time comes, they won’t need a letter.
One day you’ll just be a memory for some people. Make sure you’re a good one.
So, my message to you… don’t wait until tomorrow to love, to laugh, to follow your dreams. Do it today.