“Do you want to wear your wedding ring when you’re cremated?”
It was one of the more stand-out moments of the past twenty days – that’s the time since I learned my life is likely going to be shorter than I’d previously been expecting.
Since sharing my news via a blog post, I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by messages from near and far, from strangers, sending me their best wishes, sometimes offering nuggets of advice, or signposting me to people or services or products that they think may be of help. Some fit the bill. Some don’t. All are well-meant and that’s what matters.
It’s also been twenty days where “living your best life” has been on my mind.
What does it mean?
I’ve had lots of people advising me to quit social media, quit my job, go on endless luxury holidays. Now, aside of the small fly in the ointment we shall call a pandemic, there’s also the practicality of paying for it all and my husband’s not endless supply of annual leave.
There’s also the reality that all the things I love in my life are in my life. My husband, my work, having fun on social media, seeing friends, reading books, going on holidays.
I think “living my best life” is actually more about tinkering with the balance of all of those things. Dialling down the stuff that grinds me down. Dialling up the stuff that brings me joy, including getting back to work on TV last week.
But this past twenty days has also been a massive eye-opening insight into the myriad practical things that need to be sorted. And that includes planning my funeral.
To sit at the undertakers, to talk venues, orders of service, coffin, hearses, whether I wear my ring, even which newspapers I want my death notice to appear in, is surreal in the extreme.
It’s also utterly fascinating, but again and again it then dawned on me that we were talking about me. And that it would all happen when I’m dead. Effectively, it’s organising an odd party where my attendance is in a wooden box. That’s quite a sobering thought.
We also visited a lawyer to draft a will. There’s the pension scheme to sort out. What to do with those shares. Oh, and I must transfer the Netflix account into Alan’s name.
It sounds daft, but thinking about that level of detail right now will save agro for me in my dying days, or agro for Alan when I’m gone. It’s not morbid to sort all this now, it’s actually sensible.
My plan, and all my plans are moveable feasts, is to get the life admin sorted by Christmas, so after that we really can focus on living.
But there’s another issue on the horizon. The oncologist is rather keen that I really do reconsider more chemotherapy while the “window of opportunity” is there.
It’s not chemo to save my life. It’s chemo that could slow down my death. The difficult question is whether the damage to my quality of life in the short term from yet more chemo is worth what it may add on at the end.
There’s inevitably a sweet spot. If they could say it’ll add a year or two but I lose the next three or four months to the chemo, it’s worthy of consideration. If it’s nearer a one-for-one ratio, I’m yet to be convinced. My gut tells me my focus should be on living a good life, rather than stretching out my life while feeling less than good.
It’s a lot to think about. I’ve more research to do. And my oncologist and I have more conversations to work through. But what’s brilliant is that we are having these conversations, that the options are there for me, and that there is absolute support for whatever I choose in the coming weeks.
The strangest thing has happened, emotionally, in the past twenty days. And that’s a constant drift to feelings of gratitude and luck. I keep feeling like I am the luckiest man in the world to have received so much kindness from so many people in recent days.
Alan and I have both basked in the loveliest words and wishes as we come to terms with our new lot in life. It really is quite the wave of warmth.
We’ve done tears. We’ve done laughter. I’ve done a fair share of pity and “why me?” What’s intriguing, so far, is that there’s been no anger. I suspect, at some point, it will hit. And it’ll probably happen out of context when we least expect it. But right now, it’s about gratitude and love.
So there we are. Some thoughts, reflections and observations after twenty days of this stuff. I thought it useful to document on an as and when basis as much for my benefit as anyone else’s.
And, as for the wedding ring, well you’ll have to wait and see!