The Final Curtain?

I have been thinking a lot about death lately. OK, so we all know it’s inevitable, but most of the time we push it firmly to the back of our minds. Until, that is, something brings us up short and we suddenly find mortality at the forefront of our thoughts.

In my case, it all began in mid-July, when I went to my doc with a stitch-like pain under my right ribs. Antibiotics were prescribed – and did remove the pain; but the doc was worried by the amount of fluid he could still detect in my chest. He referred me to the local hospital, where, last week, they drained over two pints from my thorax and took tissue samples for biopsy.

Yesterday, I received the verdict: the biopsy showed ‘abnormal cells’.  In a word, I have cancer.

The verdict – but not the sentence. They need to do further tests, and I have to have a CT scan, before they can tell me what the treatment options are – and how long I have got.

Nevertheless, even the possibility of a terminal condition ‘concentrates the mind’ wonderfully. In fact, it’s quite extraordinary how it colours all one’s thinking. It’s like a pounding ground bass that throbs away under the melody of everyday life. The most trivial of tasks suddenly take on a new significance. You catch yourself visualising future events – and then having to remind yourself that you may not be there when they happen. Sometimes, at more intimate moments, the thoughts well up over everything – and with them the tears. Tears of regret, mainly; regret for things not done, opportunities not seized, loves not expressed . . .

Still: I must not get maudlin. I have lived 78 years, most of them blessedly free from ‘the ills that flesh is heir to’. I have achieved many of the things I hoped to do. I have children and grandchildren who will carry my genes into the future. For the time left, I must live as fully as I can and make the most of every day. I am an actor, after all, and now I know the lights have gone up on the last act of the play. Until the curtain falls, I hope you won’t mind if I share my thoughts and feelings with you.

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