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‘I think it’s already too late to operate. I took this to mean that the cancer was straddling both lungs. Your only possible hope is to remove one lung immediately.’

Half a year had passed since I was first ill, and when I emerged from the hospital it was a fine spring morning in April. As I walked along, the sun shone in my face. I heard the gay spring-song of birds. Young pale-green leaves were beginning to tint the trees. Life had never seemed more wonderful – a priceless, desirable thing to lose. My body seemed empty, my bones full of water. It was like a nightmare where I was in a bottomless space of loneliness. I had read about this sort of thing happening to other people; somehow I had never imagined that it would happen to me. I walked along slowly, wondering how long I had got before I was snuffed out from this lovely fresh spring of life.

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By the time I got home, I had decided that it would only make things worse to be weak, but I felt desolately sad while I told Sheila. Only then did I realise that she had known everything that was going on for weeks past and had been discussing every step with our family doctor, and others, for a long time. She said, ‘What are you going to do? I said I had done what they told me to do – booked a room for the operation next week. ‘How can you be so feeble as to agree? It’s the wrong thing to do.’

Sheila thought that I was so ill that I had weakly agreed to anything; that I was too ill to make a decision. ‘Dammit, I said, ‘first of all the radiologist says he is examining pictures all the time, and can’t possibly be mistaken. Then the surgeon says he has not only seen the cancer, but removed a piece of it. The chief surgeon said it was cancer. What else can I possibly do but agree to the operation?’

Sheila said, ‘It’s wrong to operate; your lung is in such a state that you are bound to die if they operate.’

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