I'm still here

It's strange how everything can change at a moments notice. One day you're living life, happy as can be, and the next thing you know you have cancer. Well, of course it wasn't as simple as that. Nothing ever is.

There were the signs, there always are. First came the shooting pains in my leg. I didn't think anything of them at first. It's always how these stories start isn't it. 'I didn't think anything of it.' Who would?

I'm an active person so I wasn't concerned about it. I assumed it was just a pulled muscle. Unfortunately it wasn't anything as simple or treatable as that, not that I knew that until a month or so later. But that's irrelevant.

Soon after the increasing and constant pain in my leg, I started to experience dizzying moments of vertigo which made me fall on occasion, followed by headaches that made me want to split my head open with a hammer.

It was only after the lump formed that it became something serious. Everybody knows what a lump means. Even after the sudden realisation of what I might have, it was several weeks before I told anybody. After I collapsed at a family gathering I could hardly keep it a secret.

'Rhabdomyosarcoma. A cancerous tumour of the muscles,' the Doctor told me. I didn't understand what he meant at first.

My family were distraught when I told them and of course I understood why. The tumour had spread too far to achieve long term survival.

The idea that I was going to die killed them inside. I could see the fear and sadness in their faces every day. Strangely I found it hard to convey my emotions, despite knowing that I was soon to die. I didn't cry when they told me I only had several months left to live, at least not in front of them. I cried when I was alone in my room.

Perhaps they thought me cold or just numb with fear, but nobody ever brought up my lack of emotions. They were all so sensitive.

For the first few days after my diagnosis, whenever my illness was mentioned my mother would walk out of the room, my father would hang his head and my sister would start crying. Once I was given the drugs it wasn't as bad. I guess they felt that these drugs may save me from the fate that awaited me. They wanted so desperately to make themselves believe that I could be saved.

I once walked in on my mother praying, begging in a whispered voice for God to save me. I guess in times of desperation it always comes down to God, or some greater being. When we become weak and afraid, it comforts us to think that there's something bigger then us out there, something that can save us from the hurt.

When I ask my friends to take me to Barafundle Bay they agree readily, either because they remember it as fondly as I do, or more likely they feel they have to allow a man his last dying wish.

I'm happily surprised when they all agree to come however, especially Miles. I always find it hard to describe him. Of all my friends he's definitely the most arrogant. He has a kind of harsh truth about him that I'd always cherished. He's also the joker, always creating banter and keeping our spirits up.

Then there's Davy. Kind, dependable Davy, always helping those poor souls in need. I don't mean to sound sarcastic. Without Davy I doubt that much would have been done in regards to getting to Barafundle. He's the most caring man I've ever met. One day he's going to make someone very happy.

Finally there's Bill. Of all my friends I feel the most sorry for him. He's with a girl who he doesn't even love. I can see him disappearing into himself each day. She destroys him. But he's brave. You have to brave to stay in a relationship with a woman that you don't love.

Perhaps you're thinking that I should be feeling sorry for myself. Poor me, with my cancer and the constant worry of my death. My friends have their whole lives in front of them to put their rights wrong. I don't. But I care about them more than I could ever care about dying. Once I'm gone they'll have to keep living. My parents will have to live with the fact that they outlived their son. My sister will have to live with the fact that her nieces will never grow up with their Uncle James. My friends will have to live with the fact that they...

No. I can't think of that.

The trip to Barafundle Bay is eventful to say the least. First there's the broken cart, then the fight at the pagan festival and of course, the constant arguments. Sometimes I think back to when we were younger and try to remember whether we used to argue as much as we do now that we're adults. I remember arguments over girls, mostly due to the fact that Miles seemed to want to fuck all of them, not caring if they weren't single. I don't remember much else. Maybe it's just age that's made us bitter.

The arguments continue as we carry on with our journey until suddenly we're there. Barafundle Bay. It looks exactly as I remembered. The sand stretches across the landscape, with the dunes and trees on each side almost shielding it. It's like my own little paradise. However it's more than the look of the place itself that makes me want to stay here. It's the memories. We came here when we were younger, for the same reason of camping. That was before the cancer. I remember running around, with the soft sand beneath my feet and the sound of the ocean gently lapping at the shore. I'd never felt so free before.

Even with my buggered leg I still feel free as I limp alongside my friends. They jump into the water and I follow slowly behind, allowing the water to lap at my legs. They're all laughing and I laugh merrily along with them, allowing my hands to drift in the water. For a moment I'm at peace.

They don't realise that inside I'm dying just that tiny bit. I know what I have to ask them next.

It takes up all of my courage to propose what I want to do. I can barely look at them as they absorb what I'm asking them to do. "I don't want to quit. I want to feel something huge and terrifying and brave."

I'd never been able to imagine their responses, so their reactions don't shock me. The resounding answer is "no." Despite my tears a part of me understands. The guilt would be unbelievable. They don't want to be the ones who allow me to die.

It all changes after that night. I wake up in agony, my leg burning. I scream to Davy and he moves to my side quickly. The revelation that the drugs have gone almost destroys me. I can't breathe. My lungs are gasping for air. I'm going to die like this. The cancer's going to take over and kill me. I'll be beaten.

But my friends find the drugs. I knew it was then that they changed their minds. They don't want me to die like this.

And yet as we sit on the beach, mentally preparing ourselves for the trauma, I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. What am I doing? How can I do this to my friends? Maybe I should just wait till I get home kill myself, like normal people. Just give up.

Then I remember the story. After I got cancer my father told me a story about how I almost drowned when I was three. I'd been leaning over the side of the boat, trying to look at the fishes, when I'd leant too far and fell out. He'd dived in after me and managed to save me but there was something about that moment that I remember, even at the mere age of three. I remember the complete and utter shock at falling in the water, but there was also a strange sort of peacefulness about it. I know it sounds morbid, even my father agreed, but it's this memory that keeps me going. It's this that makes me finally realise that I need to this.

My friends will move on, they'll recover from it. They'll remember that night, with me screaming in agony, and they'll realise that it was better for all of us. I'll be remembered as James, the man who had cancer and died peacefully. Not James, the man who made his family and friends watch as he lived the last of his days, drugged up and angry at the world.

I start to swim out, with my three best friends watching from the beach. The cold takes my breath away and I let out a small laugh. Finally I can feel something. As I swim I realise that I'm scared, more so than I'd ever admit to my friends.

It's not until my feet no longer touch the ocean bed that I see Miles start to follow. I wonder if it's a rescue mission. It's not. As I stop for them to catch up I notice that they are in no hurry. They're going to allow it.

As they swim up to me Davy starts to get upset and accidentally swallows water. He starts to cough and splutter, his arms thrashing desperately as he starts to panic. He's a weak swimmer and we all realise he'll have to go back.

Bill hooks his hands under his arms and starts to drag him back to the beach. I raise my hand up in a small wave. No words need to be spoken. I've already said all I need to say.

It's just Miles and I now. We stare at each other, suddenly unsure. He tells me he's scared and I don't say it but I'm grateful for his sudden honesty. I want him to stay. I'm terrified of being alone. I want someone with me in my last moments. "Please, Miles," I beg. "Do this for me, this… dreadful, wonderful thing for me."

As the tears fall down my face he nods. There's a devastating notion of finality in such a small movement.

I allow my body to stop moving and slowly I start to sink underneath the water. Miles follows a few seconds after. I can see him struggling to breathe but he stays with me. It's not long before my breath runs out and my body starts to convulse involuntarily. My hands try to grab at Miles as I start to panic, but he reaches out and holds me down. We stare at each other as my body goes limp and the water is forced from my lungs. I look up one more time to see Miles' panicked face. My arm reaches up in one last goodbye as my body convulses once more before stilling. There are no longer bubbles of air. I'm gone.

But in a way I'm still here. I'm the dust dancing in the flicker light of a projector at a cinema. I'm the million atoms of constant nothingness, spinning around your head. I'm up there in the sky, tap dancing through the firmament and laughing with the stars. I'm happy. I'm free.


A/N: I had to write a fanfic after watching this amazing film, probably so I could get some of my feelings out. I only hope that I've done it some justice. Do review if you can and let me know if any improvements can be made. Thanks.