A recent insight into what my final moments may actually be like was a stark reminder that this illness; its terminality is very much a real, inescapable outcome that I must fully come to terms with at some point in the not too distant future.
It was mid November and I caught a cold that began as a sneezey snot fest and within a couple of weeks developed into pneumonia and an urgency to be admitted to hospital. It was in those hours before my admission that my breathing became increasingly shallow, and while I was mostly sure I would get through it, there was an unshakeable thought rattling around inside that pondered the possibility that this may indeed be 'it'. No too long after my arrival at the hospital the doctor asked whether I would like to be resuscitated should things go south. That did little to settle my nerves.
During those hours I experienced some fear of that Great Unknown, and not a little frustration because I've still got shit to do (i.e. my Bucket List), but I also began to think of all the preparation I need to be getting on with for when the game finally ends and I take my final bow. What popped into my mind was that I needed to get all my ducks in a row.
It's all very well thinking about and planning and ticking-off items on my Bucket List, but I also have to think about my financial affairs, my will, what happens to my paintings and the few (mostly sentimental) possessions I have cobbled together over the years? What to do about my digital online life? Do I understand NFTs enough for my family to make a couple of quid? What about my funeral? And my wake? How will I arrange a plethora of pretty ladies to feign inconsolable distress at my passing?
I'm pretty sure I want to be buried rather than incinerated. In part, because cremation is not that eco-friendly, and it is only fair that since nature has provided me with all the wine and cheeseburgers that have given me life, it is right that I return the favour by presenting my corpse to the earth for the worms and maggots to dine on. Besides, some time ago I learned of a company called Crazy Coffins and could not possibly find any coffin more suitable than this:
I'M AN ORIGINAL CATCHPHRASE
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I was born on June 26th, 1972. With my diagnosis in January 2020 I suddenly became a Double Cancerian. I'm not sure whether that term existed before now.
On the day I learned my diagnosis was quite a bit more shite than I had hoped, many thoughts entered my head and began to roll around and crunch and pop and bang and whir and ping.
One of them was, 'Bugger', but another was a line from the movie, Shawshank Redemption:
Get busy living, or get busy dying
It was good advice.
First on my Bucket List was a trip somewhere to see an active volcano. It didn't matter where.
I have long been fascinated by their ferocity and their beauty; the brilliant reds and oranges and yellows and blacks. And I have often been glued to documentaries on YouTube as they showed footage of fountains of lava rocketing into the sky. To see one in real life has been a long-time dream. But then Covid hit.
The pandemic began a few short weeks after I had an operation and half a lung lopped out. Suddenly any and all plans for anything whatsoever went immediately onto the shelf as I was advised to shield.
To be honest, although I perceive myself as someone who is generally rather rational, with all the headlines and the buzz, some fear most definitely settled in.
Since I could not go to the volcano, the volcano would have to come to me, and that was the inspiration behind my imaginings of lava lakes and our volcanic Earth.
I have continued to produce such imaginings, and enjoy exploring new elements of the natural world.
In late 2020 I began a series describing the human impact on the natural world. Take a look HERE.
So, it turned out my cancer was a little more than quite a bit shit. It was very shit; a rare DNA mutation known as ROS1. It's terminal. There is no cure. Still, 'could've been worse.
I had long thought my ultimate demise would be something silly: a grand piano dropping out of the sky as I exit the local Greggs; a (hopefully) miss-hit golf ball thwacking into the side of my head as I walk past Bath's Pitch and Put... you know: that sort of thing.
It may still be either of those, but it made me think of another item on my bucket list: skydiving. Maybe that'll be the way I go: landing on a pitchfork in a haystack in the middle of a field?
I booked it despite the pandemic. And because they have been so supportive to me since my diagnosis, I decided to raise some money for MacMillan to say Thank you.
Lockdown in 2020 had an upside: the weather.
March and April 2020 were amazing, so I took off on my motorcycle as soon as I was recovered from the operation and as often as I could.
The roads were all but empty and so I would spend as much time as possible exploring new places and finding idyllic rivers to sit next to and enjoy a cup of tea while watching nature do its thing.
I thought a lot about the time I had left and how I wanted to spend it.
I knew I wanted to create art. And so I did.