The one gift of life is choice – or in terms of Genesis – free will. When this thought idled round in my head, my first response was, am I blaming the victim? Am I to blame for my lymphoma or you for your bereavement? Ouch!
Then I sat and thought, because this question is crucial to how I cope with the coming months. Viktor Frankl said that there was one last choice left to him in Auschwitz: how he reacted. So I am sure that how I react will change the quality of my cancer experience. It won't help to see it as punishment or sent by God. Perhaps as a message from my beleaguered body? My choice is to listen, with compassion, without blame.
My kind of lymphoma – very rare – results from my bone marrow making too many particular cells, so my blood will get thick and sludgy, hard for my heart to pump round my body.
I go inside and ask what is this a metaphor for. I see my blood trudging round my body. My heart glumly, gamely, pumping away: “I should do this. I ought to keep going.” A familiar echo: “I must, I should, I ought, I have to.”
“Should” is the opposite of generosity. It tars each gift, belittles every action. I have a choice: to give from a willing heart, to paint the canvas of my remaining life with courage. “I should be brave” is not enough. Life itself deserves a whole-hearted embrace. My blood cells should dance and ripple like a stream over stones. It is my choice.