Happy New Year! Here’s hoping 2016 brings you everything you wish for.
I’ve started the new year thinking about many things, amongst them mortality.
Let’s not get too morbid here – we’re all going to die. Unless you’re a former Rangers owner, that and paying taxes are the only certainties in life!
I’ve drafted this blog over and over again in my head over the past day or two. It’s still work-in-progress and apologies in advance if my points, though well meaning, are also a tad incoherent.
Many of you will have watched the Gordon Aikman documentary on his battle with Motor Neuron Disease (MND) last night.
For those who didn’t, it’s well worth a watch as an incredibly brave, determined and honest young man gives BBC Scotland a deeply moving insight into what are effectively the last months and weeks of his life – details here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-35214429
Soon after diagnosis, Gordon knew he was dying, and chances are it would be quick. Fifty per-cent of those diagnosed with this incredibly cruel and debilitating disease are dead within 14 months. Gordon is 29, and now wheelchair bound.
Yet his attitude to life – the time he has left – is infectious. He tries to live life to the full each day. And to leave a lasting legacy that will help in research to find a cure or at least better treatment for MND sufferers of the future.
It made me think two things. There’s always someone worse of than yourself. And you should make the most out of your time on this earth.
I know I have an incurable cancer. But I also know that, unlike MND, there have been significant strides in science and medicine in recent years to improve treatment, expand survival rates and hopefully, move towards finding a cure for Mantle Cell Lymphoma.
I know that, unlike the relentless decline in health that MND sufferers experience, there’s a decent chance that treatment will make me better before, in time, it gets worse again.
The uncertainty can certainly swing both ways sometimes, but I know I have a degree of hope. Not too many years ago average life expectancy for Mantle Cell Lymphoma sufferers was only 2-3 years.
I try to avoid the plethora of stats and research, but now it’s more like 5-10 years. I did see a reputable cancer website say the median rate is 7 years.
There’s not much I can do to dictate whether I’m ‘lucky’ or not, other than throw myself at the hands of the medics, take my drugs, stay ultra-positive and let nature take its course.
I’d love to say that I’ll live life to the full and treat each day as if it was my last. But we’d be bankrupt within the month!
You’ve got to be realistic. Yes, be positive. Yes, don’t put things off that you can conceivably do now. But accept that a lot of what you can and will do will fall into the box ‘normality’, and get on with it.
And when people say that “there’s always someone worse off than you”, it doesn’t mean that you’re not entitled to a right good moan about things that are these days described as ‘first world problems’.
By all means take a moment to put your worries into perspective. But there’s nothing wrong with a good mump about the weather, work, your football team, politicians, Waitrose being out of Fois Gras etc.
My other mortality point is that I signed off my Will today. That’s something else that puts things into perspective, but is, as I’ve said before, something I should have done years ago.
I do try to stay very positive, but realistic. And there are two things that sometimes get me down (but make me chuckle a bit at the same time…).
I used to love getting my annual pension statement to see my projected lump sum and pension if I completed 40 years in the civil service. But now I only look at the ‘death-in-service’ bit and see how much I’m worth when I’m gone!
Secondly, I sometimes look at OAPs out and about enjoying their free time after a life of toil, and reflect on all the things Louise and I said we’d do when the kids were grown up and had flown the nest. Probably just wishful thinking now. So another reason to try and do now what we’d otherwise have put off until our tomorrows.