“When I found out about the cancer I was in shock. Of course I was. I’d say that lasted for about three days and I had to work to get over the shock.
All my life I’d seen myself as very fit, a sportsman. I had played hockey, cricket, tennis and I’d gone sailing. I was keen on sports right from when I was young. To think I was no longer like that left me horrified and upset.
Then, when I was used to the idea, I told myself, ‘I’m 93. I’ve had a good life and I’ve enjoyed myself. I have nothing to worry about.’ I was told I had between two weeks and two years left to live and I was given some radiotherapy to increase my chances of living longer.
I used to work for a tobacco firm and they gave us free cigarettes which was probably the root of the problem.
As children we had a hard life, a frugal existence. We didn’t have electricity or TV. Everything was brought to us by horse and cart.
I remember the doctor visiting once a month and he charged my mother 5s a visit for the whole family. I remember my brother and I having our tonsils out, sitting around wrapped in blankets on our settee with gas as an anaesthetic. Even then I felt fit and healthy – this was just the way I saw myself.
When we were young, my wife didn’t see much of me as I was working away, staying in hotels, doing long journeys. I was very lonely when she died and I am so pleased to be living with my daughter and her family now. I enjoy the companionship here. All my children have their own families. I have grandchildren and great grandchildren and they all come and see me at different times.
Knowing that I am dying has some advantages. I have made some plans. I have sorted my will and we’ve been to a solicitor. I have two sons and a daughter and I live with my daughter and her family. Because I’m living with her, my daughter has power of attorney in case I need someone to make decisions on my behalf.
Sometimes Alison and I have different opinions and we have to agree to disagree. I know we can’t constantly be at loggerheads. It wouldn’t be making the most of the rest of the life I have.
Because I knew I was dying I gave all of my grandchildren and great grandchildren £1,000. I decided I wanted to give them premium bonds because that means that, no matter what, when they are 16 they will have at least £1,000. My youngest grandson was delighted because he is about to buy a house.
I have organised my funeral: I have told people what my wishes are. I don’t want a lot of hype. I don’t want a big fuss. I don’t want a service. As well as loving sailing I was in the merchant navy, so I’ve said ‘take me out to sea and drop my ashes there’. Get a nice little boat and my brother can take me out and scatter my ashes. Then come home and have a drink!
When I was told about the lung cancer I had a few days of feeling pretty miserable. It is a funny thing to hear – that you could die anytime.
If you get a death sentence what do you do? I sometimes worry that I will be in pain but I have found ways to make myself content. I have a sense of peace.
If you get a death sentence what do you do? I sometimes worry that I will be in pain but I have found ways to make myself content.
I have a sense of peace.
I made the decision just to live my normal life. I don’t think I will go just yet, though I do get out of breath quickly now. I take morphine when I need it and we’ve stressed to the nurses that I am concerned about living with pain so I hope they will deal with that.
After Christmas I was coughing up blood which was an ordeal. I was told radiotherapy would help with that and I was given a week of that. In nine weeks’ time I might have more.
Where I live, near Ipswich, if you’re in my situation they invite you to look round the hospice. At the moment I’m going once a week. This is part of an eight week course where they talk to you and explain how they work there. It’s beautifully done. It is reassuring to think there are people to look after you if anything serious happens.
A nurse specialist works hand in hand with them, and a nurse comes to see us once a month and another person visits from the hospice to see if we have any problems.
There’s a children’s hospice up the road and if I ever pass that it makes me think, ‘Why should I worry?’ It puts things into perspective… I’ve had my fair share of life. It’s been a wonderful life and I am lucky to have the memories.”