In August 2011, aged just 29, I was diagnosed with a rare aggressive terminal form of sarcoma and spent five months undergoing palliative chemotherapy. Being a doctor myself, specialising in elderly medicine at a busy West Yorkshire hospital, I was fully aware my prognosis was dismal. We were looking at months if I was lucky.
However, instead of being gloomy about the situation I have set about trying to live my life to the full. A huge chunk of this positive attitude came from writing my 'bucket list'. The Bucket List is a film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman who both played terminally ill cancer patients. It's about how they achieved things they never thought possible in their dying days.
I began to compile my own bucket list in hospital soon after I was diagnosed last year. I wanted an attainable list of things that would bring my family and me some happiness, creating fond memories that have nothing to do with my illness. It would have been all too easy to be completely unrealistic and say that I wanted to fly off to faraway exotic climes or jump out of a plane, but I was always very clear that my list would be filled with achievable activities.
I decided that I would like to travel a little. Trips to Edinburgh, London, Paris and Barcelona were booked, as well as breaks to the east coast, the Lake District and Anglesey. I wanted to experience some proper luxury so in Edinburgh we stayed at the Scotsman, a gorgeous boutique hotel I had always wanted to visit, and in London we stayed at the Savoy. My husband Chris and I felt completely out of place having afternoon tea at the Savoy and had to try hard not to drop anything! We also had dinner at Claridge's, where I was invited into the kitchen to see behind the scenes.
Romance is a big part of the list. I'm lucky to have a very strong, happy marriage. Chris and I decided we would recreate our first ever date in Leeds. We also decided to get married again. I loved our original wedding day so much it seemed like a perfect idea to renew our wedding vows and to have a big party for all the people who have supported us over recent months. This was an incredibly special and very emotional day, one I will never forget. It makes me smile just thinking about it. We're soon to revisit Bretton Country Park, where Chris proposed to me on New Year's Eve 2002.
Some list items were smaller and seemingly more inconsequential to other people. Reminiscence was a big part of this and I wanted to recreate some of my childhood memories: a visit to the zoo, a steam-train ride, a cricket match, a school reunion, eating fish and chips at the seaside, walking in the countryside and cooking bacon on a camp stove in the moors.
I've never done anything really rebellious in my life and that had to change, so I decided I would get a tattoo; nothing garish, just something small and pretty. I wanted to pick up some new skills, so I decided to learn Italian and to try to perfect my pastry making – something that has always challenged me, despite being a reasonable cook. Poor Chris has ended up eating many of my disasters in the process but is always very complimentary! I also challenged myself to raise a substantial amount of money for a small local charity before I die.
Some other things have made it on to the list quite by chance. The biggest of these is a flight in a glider, which fulfilled my desire to do something daredevilish. I'd never have contemplated doing this before illness, as I'm absolutely petrified of heights. However, the opportunity arose and I didn't really think twice. I was very apprehensive as I was strapped into my parachute and given the emergency briefing, but it was absolutely amazing and so peaceful soaring in the skies above North Yorkshire.
The bucket list has motivated us to spend our free time productively, and has given both myself and Chris a fantastically positive focus. I intend to keep making additions to the list as long as I am well enough to ensure I enjoy every last second of what remains of my life.
• If you want to read more about Kate's story, her books The Other Side and The Bright Side can be ordered from her website. All proceeds from sales of the books are being donated to the Yorkshire Cancer Centre. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
If this has inspired you to think about your own bucket list, please share what's on it below the line.
Thinking about dying could be a scary topic to talk about but there are so many things to accomplish before death. A lot of people are on their death beds regretting what they did with their lives and have no way of going back and changing it. You have got to live a life you won’t regret 60 years from now, when your dying. You only get one life so take advantage of it, and do something great! What do I want to be by the time I die? I want to live an exciting life and achieve as much as I can. I want to be able to create, accomplish, and find so many things.
Before I die, I want to be able to create good relationships with everyone I’m close to. When I became a teen mom I lost most of my relationships with friends and family. One person that I’ve lost, that used to be really close me, was my dad. My dad is someone I can’t live without. Before I die I want to create that bond I used to have with him again. Since my dad and I don’t live in the same house, it makes it hard for us to see each other. I’d like to make a habit to go out for a walk together and talk about how I feel and how he feels about our relationship. Creating a bond with my dad is the most important to me because I used to be close to my dad and he has always been someone I truly trusted. Even though that changed over the past year, I still want my dad to know that I need him no matter what. I don’t want to die knowing I didn’t have the one special person by my side.
Before I die, I want to accomplish something that will make a change in our world. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, made a change in the world and he is still known for his greatness 49 years later. I want to be that person; 50 years from now, I want people to remember me for something great that I did. In our generation we have all these teens using drugs and drinking alcohol on a regular basis, so by the time they are 25-30 years old, they’ve become alcoholics. I want to be that person that helps them stop using drugs and drinking. Making that change in our world would be something greatly appreciated, and I can be that person who every parent thanks for helping and saving the lives of their teens. I want to be remembered so people can see me as a inspiration and do something great with their lives.
In order for me to know who I am as a person, I need to find myself. Only then will I be able to love myself and others. I’ve always been a girl to keep emotion to myself and never let anyone know how I feel. There were even times when I wouldn’t know what I felt. I’ve grown up not knowing how to handle myself or to control my feelings. I don’t know the real me because if I did, I would be able to control myself and what I feel. I need to love myself and get to know myself. I’ve put everyone first for so long, that I forgot to think about myself. I want to know myself before I die so that I know what I want to do with my life. Like I said before, we only get one life. I want to take this one life and get to know myself so I’m not lost in everything. I also want to find love, first from myself. Loving myself can make a big impact in my life. It could give me the strength to keep going in my life without hesitation. Loving myself will also help me love the people around me.
Death scares me a lot but I can’t let that fear prevent me from doing the things I want to do before I die. Thinking about all these accomplishments and goals makes me realize that death can be soon and it can happen to anyone at any time. We make all these plans and all our goals but there is only so much time we have. I plan to live my life to the fullest rather than wasting it and ending up with regrets.