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How Cancer Forced Me to Face My Own Mortality 

 May 11, 2020

By  Paul Coghlan

 acceptance of death gives you more of a stake in life, in living happily, as it should be lived. Living for the moment.” - Sting  


No-one Lives Forever

Nothing in life is certain, except taxes and death. People have no problem talking about taxes to anyone who will listen, but death is an entirely different matter. It is inevitable and yet somehow still taboo.


Being diagnosed with cancer forced me to accept that my time to leave this world may arrive much quicker than I ever imagined. The most prominent feeling for me on being diagnosed with AML was fear.


Fear, Hope and Laughter

What I learnt from fear is that it prevents you from gaining perspective. Fear lies. Fear tells you all the negatives about a situation. Fear fuels stress, anxiety, overwhelm and multiplies all the things that can go wrong. Fear ensures that you only see death. Fear prevents you from enjoying any joy or magic in what may be your limited time left.


But hope was also there just below the surface. And for me, hope balanced the fear by allowing me to see the positives. Hope brings possibilities. Hope allows you to see life and a future. Hope requires strength, courage, determination, resilience and belief. Hope allows you to retain your sense of humour.


I realised the truth in how the gallows sense of humour really does happen when you are facing death straight in the eye. But humour and laughter really are the worlds best medicine (or at least a close second to chemotherapy) and the body doesn’t really care if the source of your laughter may be a bit morbid given the gravity of the situation. It certainly makes those taboo conversations about death a little easier! I now also know that laughing releases the same emotional energy as crying does and laughter was much more comfortable for everyone to handle.

Appreciate Life

Facing your mortality can make you the best version of yourself. It highlights all the crap in your life that really doesn’t matter. It brings a realisation of what and who really are important to you. It makes you appreciate so many things, situations, people and memories that you took for granted. You assume that everything in life is permanent, just like you are. But they aren’t.​


​We really do have a finite amount of time to do all the things we want to do. Happiness is often something that people put on hold until they get the serious stuff in life out of the way. But being happy now is what is most important about being alive. Live in this moment. Life is precious right now. Don’t wait for the perfect moment to arrive, as that moment may never come.


“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist” - Oscar Wilde

Paul Coghlan


Paul Coghlan is a native of Westport, Co Mayo. He shares the experience of his shock medical diagnosis in 2018. Faced with an appalling prognosis, Paul unearthed character and determination he never knew existed. Paul has always been a keen sports man and credits a great deal of his recovery both mental and physical to his love of sport. He has spoken to sports groups, youth organisations and businesses both in Ireland and abroad. His personality and humour allow him to speak openly and passionately about the lessons he has learnt through his adversity, making him a compelling, memorable and above all inspirational speaker.

Paul Coghlan

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