“Nothing is as obnoxious as other people's luck.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
I do not regard being diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer on my 49th birthday as the most fortuitous event of my life. When I was told six months later, after the prompt extradition of the offending kidney, that the cancer had returned and spread to multiple organs and had become inoperable, incurable and indeed terminal, I still failed to regard the news as especially fortunate. However, now that more time has passed, I am able to reconsider my luck from a wider perspective and when balanced out over an admittedly annoyingly reduced lifetime, I think on balance, that my luck may, incredibly, be actually still on top.
Despite constant hospital visits, aggressive chemotherapy treatment, perpetual tests and frequent periods of immense pain and discomfort I nonetheless lead a rather charmed life. I live in a beautifully renovated early eighteenth century thatched school house in a picturesque Wiltshire hamlet in an area of outstanding natural beauty surrounded by handsome woodlands and a crystal clear chalk stream. I get up when I like and take the dog for my leisurely morning stroll. I have the most amazing wife who has been there with me every step of the way, since we were both young teenagers being told that we wouldn’t last. I have extremely well balanced and smart children who are excelling at top universities, even if they do get a little embarrassed and uncomfortable with my constant bragging about them on Facebook. I have numerous dependable and deeply knowledgeable friends around the country and indeed further afield who I keep in touch with me and both visit or come to see me on a regular basis. I drive a fabulous new car that when ordered had pretty much all of the optional extras boxes ticked off. I have some high quality speakers, amplifiers and turntables in order to make use of my, quite frankly, obscenely large record and and CD collection. What’s more, thanks to paid sick leave, I now even have the time (albeit borrowed), to appreciate all these things. And thanks to the perspective afforded to me by my disease I have the foresight to truly value and appreciate my blessings and the freedom to even start my sentences with a conjunction if I so desire.
I list these things not to boast, well not primarily anyway, but as a genuine exercise in counting my blessings and realising my good luck. Besides which, compared to the success of many of my friends my achievements will probably appear somewhat underwhelming. I am however rather pleased with my lot in life and as such it would be rather easy to self congratulate myself on this rather providential position in which I find myself. I could feel smug at my decision to put myself through university many years after leaving school with no formal qualification. I could crow about my sage property and investment choices and I could boast about the success of my chosen career path and the hard graft I have put in over numerous years that has bought me to this point in my life. The fact is though, that astute as my life choices may have been, they would have accumulated to nought without the vast sprinkling of luck that has accompanied them over the years.
It’s a shrewd analogy that has been made by others before me, but as I white, middle class, middle aged, educated, heterosexual, male it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that I have in fact merely been playing the game of life on the easiest setting. Also as a child of the sixties, I was also born at a time that has given me a lot more advantages than my children’s generation. For example, I was able to buy my first house at the age of nineteen with a 100% mortgage and then give up my job a year later and go to university for free and even receive a government education grant for the privilege of doing so. Such favoured opportunities must be utterly unimaginable to todays Generation Z who after leaving university with a £50,000+ debt will probably still have to work for free just in order to get a foot in the door of a decent career.
My relative good fortune was also bought home to me a few weeks ago when I was in hospital for my radiotherapy treatment. Whilst in hospital I met with several other healthcare professionals who were on hand to help me with any other issues that I might have. Compared to many cancer patients my problems are at least confined solely to my health condition. Many less lucky cancer patients have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, or have been pressured to return to work before being effectively able to do so. Conversely my employers have, to date, been extremely understanding and accommodating regarding my state of health. I therefore haven’t really got too much else to worry about. I’m lucky enough not to have any of the financial issues, relationship problems or family complications that are often exasperated by a health condition such as mine. Indeed, apart from the actual cancer itself and my extreme displeasure with the divisive populist tide on which Trump and Brexit currently ride there’s nothing much else to keep me unduly awake at night.
As far as my health is concerned, perhaps my bad luck is also finally about to change, the pain in my right hip has improved considerably since my radiotherapy treatment. Blood tests did reveal a high amount of calcium in my blood following my radiotherapy treatment. Presumably some of the calcium had escaped from my hip bone into my blood where it appears to be less welcome. Luckily an additional intravenous drip administered directly after my immunotherapy treatment has seemed to have taken care of that small set-back.
So all things considered I still consider myself to be a fairly jammy bastard, and despite my long-term health outlook remaining pretty damn bleak, I nonetheless intend to ride my good luck for as long as possible and continue to make the most of this incredible and most appreciated time that I have left.