My song today is ‘I’ll Never Love Again’. This song is from the 2018 film ‘A Star is Born’’ and was performed by its stars Lady Gaga and director Bradley Cooper whose character sings the final chorus in the flashback scene. The song has received widespread critical acclaim and has reached the top of the Slovakian digital charts, the top-ten of the record charts in Hungary, Ireland, and Scotland, and the digital charts of Greece, combined-Europe, Luxembourg, and Spain. The song received a limited release as the album's third single in selected territories on May 27, 2019. The song won the Grammy Award for 'Best Song Written for Visual Media', a year after the album’s lead single, ‘Shallow’ won in the same category.
When Gaga was getting ready to film the final scene of A Star Is Born, where she sings "I'll Never Love Again", the singer got a telephone call that her childhood friend Sonja Durham was in her last moments of Stage 1V cancer. Gaga left the set and drove to meet Durham, but she arrived ten minutes after her friend died. She asked Durham's husband if she should return to filming; he replied, "You've gotta do what Sonja would want you to do", so she returned to the set. Co-star and director Bradley Cooper were supportive of Gaga's loss but Gaga was adamant about finishing the scene, so she stepped on the set and sang "I'll Never Love Again". The singer said, "Sonja gave me a tragic gift that day and I took it with me to the set, and I sang that song for Jackson and for her on that very same day within an hour."
This song and the events that Lady Gaga reported in real life as she took her emergency break from the film that she was making to see her dying friend from stage 1V cancer strongly resonates with me. In a way, I consider myself as being one of the luckiest people ever born. I was loved by my parents from childhood onwards, and my siblings and family throughout my life, my children since their birth, and my wife, Sheila since the first day we met, and my friends ever since. Indeed, I have never lived one minute when I felt unloved. If that does not make me one of the luckiest men alive, I do not know what does?
I currently have three body cancers (two being terminal), and because of terminal blood cancer I have had for eight years (which is prone to give me additional cancer in any of my other organs), my final tally could well witness me with more than three different cancers simultaneously. During the past month, I have noticed a significant advancement in my face and neck cancer which is now spreading toward my throat and shoulder areas, and my level of pain and discomfort has dramatically increased.
Because of developing terminal cancers, I have had to readjust my mind to my future death and the impact it will make on family and the people close to me, upon who it will have the greatest impact. No person ever gets to know when the bullet that has their name on it is fired. They will hear the bang, but they will most likely have hit the ground dead before the gun smoke has cleared in the air. I, on the other hand, have had several years to contemplate my own absence from the stage and the closing of my ‘last curtain’. This forewarning has enabled me to make whatever plans and preparations are required for my next role.
Eight years ago, when I was first told that I had terminal blood cancer, I was naturally shocked with the news for a while until I got my head around the reality, particularly as Sheila and I had just married three months earlier on my seventieth birthday (a great way never to forget one’s wedding anniversary for the absent-minded husband). I decided early on in my illness to tell my family upfront about my incurable blood cancer, as I believed that knowing in advance enables individuals to gradually readjust to the grieving process prior to the death of a loved one, besides lessening the impact of shock when the event eventually occurs. By the time death comes, while it naturally saddens the bereaved, it does not shock them as much because the ‘unexpected’ has been converted to the ‘expected’ in advance of the event.
Because I had no timetable guide of life expectation beyond three years from blood cancer diagnosis in early 2013, nobody knew how long a life span I had remaining, and my death could have occurred at any time (and almost did more than twice since 2013). As it happens, I have so far had an extra five year’s grace since developing incurable blood cancer. In fact, given my traffic accident at the age of 11 years, and two massive heart attacks in the same week at the age of 60 years (neither of which my family was told I would live through) I have been at death’s door five or six times in my life.
For me and mine, informing them and the rest of the world at the earliest moment was most definitely the right thing to do, but I am aware others may not decide to follow that route. The hardest thing for me was telling one’s nearest and dearest. I will never forget hearing the tears of my child/children down the phone, as I wanted them to know before next visiting me. I was giving them time to chew the fact over in their mind, and better enable them to feel free to ask me whatever they wanted to, and as they wanted to know.
The final thing for me to do was to better define my purpose during the last years of my life. I have always had a clear purpose in my life ever since the age of 11 years after being the victim of a traffic accident that left me unable to walk for three years. My initial purpose was one of ‘Self Help’ for the following decade. After another decade of exploration (in terms of travel and suitable occupation), I undertook a job as a Probation Officer in West Yorkshire at the age of thirty. Over the next thirty years, I devoted my life to helping others in every way I could through my paid work, my voluntary work, my community involvement, and my writings. My purpose throughout was to help people face their life and confront their problems in the best way possible. In short, I wanted to help people to live happier and healthier lifestyles.
After my terminal cancer diagnosis, I decided that my ongoing purpose would be as upfront with my friends and neighbours about my cancer condition as it was with my family. I decided to enable the truth of my medical situation to assist other people who had cancer in terms of understanding, acceptance, developing coping mechanisms, and emotional resolution of their situation, especially where their cancers were incurable. I wanted to help them to die better when the time to depart this life arrived but to live it as full and as positive as possible in the meantime.
I did not want the remainder of their lives to be determined by the constant fear of dying. If they were destined to die from their condition (and two-thirds of cancer patients can be cured if caught and treated early enough), I wanted to help them face death with less fear, and in a strange way, to be more content than they might otherwise have been. As my earlier purpose in life had been to help people to live happier within themselves, my future purpose would be the same until the day their illness took them from this world. Until they died, however, I wanted them to live every day to its fullest; something that is extremely difficult when one carries a death warrant in their pocket.
There is a significant distinction between fearing the possibility of one’s death and being faced with an incurable illness and being told the inevitability of it! To acquire this state of ‘acceptance’ while still wanting to live on while retaining a positive attitude was my overall aim.
On my daily Facebook page, I have written a daily post for a dozen years now. This was a kind of blog before I ever heard of the word. Over the past eight years since I publicly revealed my cancer diagnosis, I have befriended hundreds of Facebook contacts whose lives have been touched by cancer. Many have cancer, or have had cancer, or feared contracting cancer. Some have lost family and friends to cancer, and a great many fear having to negotiate all the medical tests and procedures that make up the cancer circus paraphernalia. Many people are ignorant to the first signs of cancer, and the possible side effects of experiencing a cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy or knowing what the implications of an extensive life-saving operation are, along with the many assessments and other examination procedures they could face during the course of a long illness.
Some of the procedures to examine the presence of cancers such as CT Scans and MRI are relatively painless (body imaging processes to discern the presence of cancer or not, or the progress of cancer treatment). Other procedures are at worst uncomfortable, such as having a biopsy taken (having a part of the offending tissue cut out and a sample sent for testing to confirm the presence of cancer being malignant or not). For people awaiting a biopsy, please note that having the site frozen in advance prevents any pain from being felt by the patient. Some procedures are very uncomfortable and not at all pleasant, such as an endoscopy procedure where organs inside your body are looked at using an instrument called an endoscope. This is a long, thin, flexible tube that has a light and camera at one end. Inserted through the patient's mouth and down their throat, it enables Images of the inside of one’s body to be shown on a television screen. This procedure will one make one gip. The colonoscopy is a test to check the bowels (unpleasant but not painful). The examination which sounds the most painful is having a cystoscopy. This involves insertion into the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of your body). This enables one’s bladder to be examined for the presence of cancer. Paradoxically, I found this procedure to be without pain and only mildly discomforting for a few seconds as one’s penis is frozen before the microscopic wire is inserted.
Having three different body cancers at the present, plus another cancer in the past, I have undergone all these procedures at least once, and some on several occasions, and a few many times. I record all my medical procedures and operations on my Facebook page, and I am quite explicit about what my concerns and thoughts are at any time. This is a two-way process as many people have their fears lessened with some reassuring factors that I can truthfully provide. This enables them to face some uncomfortable procedures better. For my part, I receive an avalanche of love, goodwill messages, moral support and prayers said on my behalf. All this love in return helps me to keep going with the power of love, prayer, positivism, friends, and family. Not one person who reads my daily posts does not know by now that we can all get by better in life with a little help from our friends. Anyone who reads my post daily will know that there is absolutely no need for any person with cancer to feel alone and unsupported in their struggle and that no one needs to travel the road alone.
I know that my emotional honesty and openness help many people to come to terms better with their own medical situation. Even the gravity of my own situation (coping with three different body cancers simultaneously) enables others with one cancer to feel a bit better off for even a while. If I can bring ease of mind and body for even a month, a week, a day, an hour; or indeed even a minute of a person’s difficult day, I am content to know that I continue to serve my current purpose in life.
Life is for the living of it, and every morning I awake, I thank God for the gift of my life. I am determined to make the very most of my day to come. It is true that the sooner we can learn to live our lives as though it may be our last day on this earth, the happier an individual we will all become.
Love and peace