When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone

From The Telegraph:

In January 2008 the political strategist Philip Gould was diagnosed with gastro-oesophageal cancer and given a 50/50 chance of recovery. “I made an immediate decision to be as open and honest as I possibly could about what had happened, reaching out to people rather than trying to do it alone,” he writes in his posthumously published memoir of his illness. Having broken the news to his wife, the publisher Gail Rebuck, and his daughters, Georgia and Grace, Gould began telling friends. Alastair Campbell was “totally solid and absolutely loyal”; Peter Mandelson was “typically stringent”. Tony Blair visited, “and so began an entirely new phase in our relationship”. From the moment of his diagnosis, Gould addressed his condition in political terms: “Everything I thought about the battle with cancer was strategic, as if I were fighting an election campaign. I saw the elimination of the cancer as victory and the test results as opinion polls.” As part of his strategy, he researched the best places for treatment, but could find no consensus. Eventually, the choice came down to radical surgery on the NHS, or a less invasive operation at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospital in New York City. He chose Sloan-Kettering – a decision he would come to regret. Back in London he returned to the NHS for chemotherapy, and initially appeared to make a good recovery. But his wife felt uneasy. She wrote a note imploring him to slow down: “Politics… is such a destructive force. It nearly killed you once, please don’t let it kill you again.” At his next scan, the doctors looked grim. The cancer had recurred; the prognosis was poor.

Over dinner with Tony Blair, Gould confessed to feeling lost. He had done everything required of him. Why had the cancer returned? Blair’s response was remarkable: “The cancer is not done with you, it wanted more. You may have changed but not by enough, now you have to go on to a higher spiritual level. You have to use this recurrence to find your real purpose in life.” This Messianic statement resonated powerfully with Gould. Throughout his final year he sought meaning in his death. “Death is not frightening if you accept it. It is a time for immense change and transformation, a time to fulfil yourself and others, and a chance in a small way to change the world.”

More here.