"I want you to come and see me. Make an appointment for next week. We will talk then. Goodbye."

I felt cold inside; other worldly, trembly with fingers of relentless ice slipping like slime through all the arteries of my body. This was it; this is what I had dreaded for those three long weeks of waiting: one minute wanting them to be over and the next minute desperately trying to push off the 'knowing' date.

Now I knew the answer - Cancer.

Now I knew the answer: - CancerI zombied outside, nausea added itself to my list of violent reactions. I looked up at the autumn trees, their leaves in full russety glory and drank thirstily the sights that met my eyes; There was the softness of the yellows, greens and browns and the showy gaudiness of the reds and oranges. I trod the crunchy leaves under foot and breathed in chunks of autumn scented air. It was as if I was trying to attach myself to other autumnal crunchings. I had always loved walking a stompy, stampy march through autumns' crispy carpet. Then I had all the time in the world. Now time had been taken away from me.

My stomach plummeted as that primeval terror held my mind in it's vice grip. Death.

I forced my head up again and started 'filming' all the precious beauties of the scene around me. I couldn't get enough of it. I wanted to fill all my store houses with experiences, sensations, intense deeply lived life. What good would it do me? My store houses would remain with me, lifeless when the end came. The ice slimed on. The terror deepened.

I lifted my head once more and felt a warm gentle smile caress my lips. "Go on drinking up the wondrous sights around you, my sweet, go on trying to understand and spreading that understanding with the time still granted to you."

I started thinking in this knew found wide awake mode. I thought of day by day pettinesses and how insignificant they were. "What a waste of oh so precious time." I thought of my dreams and projects and held them very close to me. "You can still try. You must still try". A comforting denial wafted over me. "It is not today, nor tomorrow, tuck it away somewhere and forget it"

The gripping stomach cramps screamed. "Cancer"

I went back inside, walked hesitantly to the phone and picked up the receiver. "You phone, you have given me enough to cope with in one day." Still my fingers dialed the clinic's number. What would I save by delaying making an appointment? The cancer was inside me whether I spoke to the doctor or no. "Here we go", I thought as I wrote down the first entry in the "dealing with cancer" list.

That list wound its way through explanation meetings, examinations, test upon test until I felt my insides were no longer my own, sedations, operations, dreaded chemo and oncology. I was a body. I was a faulty body being done unto. My faulty body could no longer be trusted. The poisons it was absorbing fought its natural harmony and rhythm and threw out all sorts of spikey unpleasant 'reactions'. I watched it, sometimes from my bed, sometimes from my chair rarely from my upright standing position. I noticed the unfilled hours dragging by as my poison shocked body failed to rev up its engines into action. The 'dealing with cancer' list droned on and my life seemed to be draining away into the doldrums.

From somewhere came a spark. No, it was not from me. My own spark was floating with the rest of me in the doldrumsFrom somewhere came a spark. No, it was not from me. My own spark was floating with the rest of me in the doldrums. I had reached absolute zero; the place where the only way is up. Yet even then to go up you need to have the umph to start. The spark scolded me. "Are you choosing to kill the girls with the boys, like Amram thought to do in Egypt? Get up, do, be, live."

"All right spark, I'll try." I dragged my chemo battered body into life while my mind hunted out that wide awake mode I had once tasted so many experiences ago. I saw the present, wrapped up in the most tasteful style with my name calligraphied onto the label. "This is your cancer, what are you going to do with it?"

"I am going to spread the word about the preciousness of time, about the purposefulness of life."

I am back in the oncology outpatients department. This time I am 'just visiting' as I accompany my friend to her monthly 'treatment'. We wait for the blood test; we wait for the result; we wait for the clear plastic container filled with very concoction she needs arrives; we wait for the nurse to set up the infusion drip; we wait drip, drip, drip until finally the bag will empty.

I looked round that clinically white walled room lined with Blue plastic covered reclinable armchairs with pull out leg rests for the 'receivers'. Their companions sat next to them on ordinary chairs each trying to make the process as pleasant as possible. So much chesed, lovingkindness, filled that room. The time the companions were giving to their friends; the wakened understanding and wisdom that the 'receivers' passed on to all who would listen; the lady who came to play harp music; the volunteers who offered refreshments, drinks, cake; the caring dedicated staff.

My friend interrupted my thoughts. "I thought that, when I had finished my treatments I would be able to start my life again; but then this came. "

"So now when will you be able to re-start your life?"

"Perhaps I won't ever be able to go back to how I was but I am going to try to use every day. When I first found out that the cancer had spread, I prayed for arichus yomim, extended days, for time I suppose. Then I thought "How can I pray for more time? What am I doing with the time give me?" . So now I am going to dedicate myself to doing chesed. I thought of joining the Chevra Kadisha (the Jewish burial society); making meals for people in need; going with people when they need treatments."

Yes, that is the gift; cancer is about the preciousness of time, about the purposefulness of life."