Lucky

There’s a big empty skip outside my office window that, as soon as I’ve finished writing this, I’m going to begin filling with the old me.

Four months on from diagnosis and it turns out I’m one of the lucky unlucky-ones, my brain tumour one of the good bad-ones.

It’s not going to take me down so quickly, it appears, that those watching will stand back in shock, shaking their heads wondering what just happened. My time may be limited, but I do have some time to play with.

How would you fill your time, if you knew you only had a relatively small amount of it left?

It’s a question we’ve all considered in a detached sort of way, but over the long cycling miles this summer I’ve found myself having to ask and answer it for real.

Far from being depressing, I’ve found the exercise liberating.

It didn’t start out that way. The biggest fear I had from the very beginning was change.

If I lived, my life would mainly be out of my control. One of taking medicines and suffering their side effects; of MRI scans and radiotherapy waiting rooms; of trips to the doctors, sickness and sadness.

Even if I wasn’t ill, I’d no longer really be me.

I’d always be that guy with the brain tumour. That neighbour down the road with the brain tumour. That cyclist with the brain tumour. That mate of mine with the brain tumour. That little girl in the school, yea, her Dad is the one with the…

But things get forgotten and things get absorbed. Even the extraordinary becomes ordinary given time.

These days I feel my diagnosis, far from limiting my choices, is encouraging me to make changes I should have made long ago.

It has challenged me to shape my life into the way I really want it to be. To pursue a few dreams and passions selfishly, while stripping away the things that caused stress and unhappiness, that brought clutter and confusion.

It may be a deal with the devil, but I am grateful still.

So after taking the whole summer off, I’m starting afresh today by purging the office of my old working life.

Into the skip will go boxes of old business cards and leaflets about services I no longer want to provide, the folders about projects I now know I’ll never pick up again. Paperwork I’ve kept, just in case. The old projector, the microphone, the printed handouts. The old tools of my old trade.

When I was first diagnosed, I was amazed to read cases studies of people who almost, but not quite, seemed to be grateful for the changes their brain tumour had brought into their life.

Now I’m beginning to understand what they meant.

Tomorrow I’m cycling 128 miles alone, the exact route of the first stage of the Tour of Britain which starts next Sunday.

I’ll leave Ipswich after breakfast as a moderately successful, but stagnant and unsatisfied charity communications trainer – with a brain tumour.

I’ll finish around tea time in Norwich as a writer, pure and simple.

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