In the end, the hardest decision of my life was not so hard after all. On Friday, I am going to walk into my surgeons office, and ask him to perform an operation that leaves me with a 50% chance of never leaving the hospital again. For a brief period, maybe 24 hours, I considered a slow and sickly walk to the finish line. To take the time that was on offer, to know the end would still come, but not know when. To be afraid ALL THE TIME.
And then I thought of the mouse. A couple of years ago we came home from holidays, and while we had been away and the house had been quiet, a bit of a mouse plague had started up. We had laid some baits for them, but there was still quite a bit of activity. As I sat on the couch that night, I watched a mouse make a slow march across the loungeroom floor. He had eaten some poison, and this little mouse was struggling. But still, he tried to have a go, he was a brave little rodent. He walked what must have felt like a country mile, maybe buoyed by hope, but probably always knowing that the grim reaper could catch him any moment he chose, and eventually he definitely would grab him by his wriggling tail, and stare him in the face, after toying with him as long as he chose, and then it would be all over. But still, the mouse dragged his paralysed legs behind him, because what other choice did he have?
In a way, I am that mouse. Except he didn’t have any chance. As soon as he greedily gobbled the poison, it was all over for him. It may not, however, be all over for me. If I go the other way, I’ll need nothing short of a miracle, but if I put one foot in front of the other, gather all my courage, and let them wheel me into that operating theatre in a couple of weeks I will not need a miracle, just a massive amount of luck. 50/50. One in two. As a fellow cancer patient friend said yesterday – all my money on red.
I know a lot of people will be astounded by this decision. Surely time is everything, when I have four children and a partner I adore. Surely I should give them every day I can, a chance to make more memories. Because the time I have now that I am guaranteed to be able to make memories just shrank to approximately 10 days. It is unfathomable, impossible to prepare for, but somehow, I know it must be done.
I’ve lived a little larger in the last 13 months. I’ve shone a little brighter, been a little braver, loved a little harder. All of this because I have had hope. If I say “no, thanks all the same” on Friday and go and park myself back in the chemo chair, I’ll already be a little dead. And bit by bit, the light will dim, until it goes out. I don’t want my children, my partner, my friends, or frankly anyone to remember me like that. If my fate is already sealed, and this operation cannot save me, then let it go out while it’s still bright.
And think of the other side, if all goes well. A 50% chance I will leave the hospital cancer free. The surgeon is fairly certain he can remove all the cancer from my liver, or he would not have offered me the surgery. He does have grave doubts about how long my liver will stay tumour free, but he does think he can take it all. The question mark only hangs over whether my liver will be able to recover from having 72% of it’s volume removed. If anyone knows anything that helps livers to regenerate, please let me know!
You know that saying “Imagine what you could do if you were not afraid?” I’m not going to say that now, because I am absolutely terrified. But if I make it through this, I doubt I will ever fear anything again, after all, I would have already stared Joe Black directly in the face. And then, imagine what I could do? I want to live big, and bright, and loud and authentic, and most of all…..brave. And i don’t want to be that mouse. Sure, it had courage, but it was, in the end, doomed.