That is what the doctors gave me, almost three months ago to the day.
Three months to live. That is not long, not long at all; a microsecond of the life I thought I had ahead of me.
I am uncertain if it is better knowing.
Maybe an unexpected death, an instant death; like getting mowed down by the proverbial bus is better. That way you can be happily going about your regular everyday business and BANG.
That is it. Finito.
This way is worse. This way everybody around me is living on tenterhooks. No one knows what to say, how to act or what to do.
There is nothing they can do.
I did not, still do not, have the time or the inclination, to do all those things I have never done in my life before. Like driving a Ferrari around a racetrack, base jumping into a canyon, or running naked through the snow in Finland.
I shall never get to empty my bucket list.
I could do them, some of them at least. I cannot afford to go to Australia, or for a space flight to feel weightlessness. I could do some of the other things; but truthfully, I cannot be bothered to make the effort.
You see, the whole point of doing such things is not so much for the ‘doing’ of them, however exhilarating they may be in the instant. It is what they leave you with after the events, what you carry away with you, the experience, the memories.
Memories which will last you a life time.
Yet a lifetime is something I no longer have.
So, to do all ‘that stuff’ seems a waste of the time I do have left. All those things I should have done before now, could have done when I was younger, fitter, stronger and of course, healthier.
The strange thing was I did not feel ill, not even in the slightest.
I have done. Two months ago I felt terrible, sick, dizzy, lethargic. You name it, I felt it. But now that has passed.
The doctors said it sometimes affects people in that way. It comes and goes in stages.
I had things to do. Make a new will. Organise my life, my ‘estate’ as the solicitors called it. My own thinking was more in line with Johnny Cash’s lyrics, “You can have it all, my entire empire of dirt”.
I know that is a slight misquote of the lyrics, but it is my version.
Hey, look on the bright side. I got to choose my own coffin! I was going out in a style I have chosen myself, not some pimped up piece of shit foisted on my dead corpse. Not many people get that opportunity.
Basically I was set. I had written letters to those I loved which they would receive after I had been interned. I have also made a video to be played at Christmas. In which I wish them all happiness and joy, explaining they should all do their ‘stuff’ now. Not put it off as I had, or else they too might never get the chance to do whatever wants they secretly harboured.
I have accepted my demise.
I am pensive, but only about the dying bit, not death itself. I do not want to suffer or be in pain. I do not think I could handle that well. But being dead, I am certain, is not painful at all.
At the time of writing, according to the doctors, l have three more days to go. I still feel good in myself and was wondering if it will just hit me. If it is to be like a countdown, a stopwatch, and at midday on Friday my lights will just go out.
Click… game over!
But I know timing is just an estimate, a guess. But that still cannot stop me wondering about so many things, like a miracle cure, or the discovery of a new procedure, or Martians landing on earth with a cure for all ills and the formula for everlasting life.
I suppose even though I have accepted death, I do not really want to die, not yet anyway.
I suppose these are the type of thoughts which run through everyone’s mind when considering one’s own death, imminent death.
These are the thoughts running through my mind when the doctor arrived at the house.
Usually, once a week, the nurse comes and checks me out, takes blood and writes a lot of notes on her charts. I do not think a single notation, a single word, scribble, line or mark on those charts and papers actually had anything to do with trying to making me better. My suspicions they are records for protecting the doctors own backsides in case of any litigation if the future. But maybe I am just being cynical?
Anyway, this morning the doctor came with the nurse. This is it, I thought, this is the bad news, this is when the doctor tells me I shall deteriorate fast from this point onwards. This is when the pain starts, where I become incontinent, where my dignity as a human disappears.
I am not ready for that.
Dignitas becomes an appealing option.
“Mr Harvey”. The Doctor started to speak in a slow and deliberate voice.
He was rubbing his little goatee beard with his hand. Nervous tension. Although why he would worry was beyond me, it was I who was dying, not he.
“I am not sure how to explain this to you”. The Doctor sighed. I noticed the nurse was concentrating on inspecting the toes of her shoes.
This was it I suspected. This was the worst news. If a professional was having trouble telling me, I was to steel myself as best as I could.
I stood in the centre of my lounge, clenching my jaw and trying not to shake. I felt cold sweat forming on my brow and palms.
I knew this was coming, was inevitable, but I still felt like vomiting.
“Mr Harvey, there has been a mistake”. Again, the doctor paused.
“Your notes were mixed up I’m afraid”. The Doctor stopped speaking, he just sat there looking straight at me. The Nurse looked up too. She was chewing on her left cheek, just where her top and bottom lip met.
I watched as her tongue flicked out and licked a trickle of blood which was seeping from the biting.
I frowned and shock my head. “I don’t understand’.
“You are not going to die, Mr Harvey, at least not yet”.
My mind went blank. My head dizzy with confusion. I heard what the doctor said, but honestly did not comprehend a single word.
Again I said “I don’t understand’.
The doctor spoke again. “Your notes, Mr Harvey were miss-filed, you ended up with another patience’s diagnosis in your file. You are well. You are fine. You are nowhere near deaths door”.
Slowly it began to sink in. I was not going to die at midday on Friday, or the next Friday, or the one after that. Not unless that bloody bus ran me down!
I was relieved. I was happy. I was angry.
In fact, I was bloody furious.
How dare these so called medical professionals put me through so much grief, so much mental torture for so long? How can they justify putting my wife, my kids, my family and friends in this position for three whole months?
I stood up. My mouth was running away with me. I cannot tell you what I said, because one half of it I do not remember and the other is unrepeatable and unprintable. Suffice to say I let go a tirade of verbal abuse for a good fifteen minutes, in which time I do not think I stopped to draw breath, even once.
To give the Doctor and nurse their due, they stood and took my entire sermonising diatribe on the chin without flinching. When I eventually ran out of words and expletives, I was panting like a hound after a long run. I collapsed back into my chair sitting silently and awaiting a response.
I would have said I was awaiting an answer, but I do not think I asked a single question during my ranting rage.
“We understand your frustration Mr Harvey, which is why I wanted to pass this news on to you personally” said the doctor quite calmly.
I could feel my hackles rising once more. How dare he be so controlled after the months of tourture he has put me through?
“I would like you to consider, if you will” the doctor continued, looking directly into my eyes, “that I have to speak to the patient whose notes were confused with you own”.
“What on earth has that to do with what you have put me and my family through for all these months?” I asked indignantly.
“Because, Mr Harvey, we have to give the other patient the news that he has only a matter of days to live. A man we told was only slightly ill, that would soon be better and back to his old self again. If you think you have been inconvenienced, how do you think he is going to feel when we tell him he is about to die?”
I must admit, I have not stopped thinking about that poor man.
I do not call him ‘poor man’ because he is about to die, but because he has so little time to come to terms with dying.
I had three months. Little time, but enough to accept the inevitable.
I wonder if the other man ever drove a Ferrari around a racetrack, or visited Australia?
I do not envy him. But I have concluded it is far better not to know your own future, especially when it involves your own demise.
From now on I shall live my life one day at a time.
When the reaper eventually comes for me, I hope he will be driving a big red bus.
© Paul White 2017
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