My journey, the start of which was described in The Courier 12 months ago, has been fascinating, fortunate and life affirming.Like all journeys, there have been days of glorious horizons and times of struggle in the Slough of Despond.I had accepted the clear-cut diagnosis of prostate cancer with significant secondaries as being my lot in life.A 60-year-old who had worked for nearly 40 years, I was looking forward to sharing retirement with my wife, Dianne.However what we determined was to spend the year, almost frenetically, doing as much as we could while health was sound.It also brought home that retirement is not a right but a privilege.I felt I was also fortunate in having time to bid farewells, to say last good-byes and to tie up any loose ends.I contrasted my situation with the heart attack victim, although am willing to concede that both scenarios have their advantages.I also felt a certain freedom, for I felt free of material ambitions and free of the need to impress or be constrained by others.This is not to suggest there have not been times when anger and frustration have emerged at what seemed like death by slow torture.But there was little time for grieving or recriminations and no chance to complain to Consumer Affairs, the Equal Opportunity Commission or the Ombudsman to gain redress.I feel many cancers are chance encounters _ rather like being the victim of a sniper's indiscriminate shooting.I couldn't argue ``why me?''.Having accepted the situation, Dianne and I set about living life to the full; making the most not only of every day, but of every micro second.Every day was to be a purposefully filled five-star day.When waiting for red lights to change, when spending time in queues or listening to bores or whingers, we became impatient as just a dash of time was being lost.We became very conscious of the meaning of time and how quickly it can run away with life as days, months and years seep away.Being therefore time poor, Dianne and I have travelled widely, often by plane, across Australia.We stood on Thursday Island watching over Torres Strait; we climbed at Mt Buffalo, dined at the Mungerannie Hotel on the Birdsville Track, crossed the Simpson Desert and hung our hats on Poeppels Peg and participated in a grey nomads work party in the Stony Desert.We attended concerts and art galleries; we endeavoured to participate as much as possible in life.We aimed to maintain our connections and networks as much as possible.I also felt I would be open and expansive about my health.Always a gregarious character, I found significant support through sharing my condition, and secondly, as someone who had been involved in teaching, I felt I was in a unique position to educate my friends and colleagues in terms of prostate cancer and to encourage all to have regular inspections.Most importantly I have encouraged wives and partners to place pressure on their menfolk to undergo checkups.Of course we focussed on our immediate family of four children and three grand children.We were drawn closer, valued together times, especially birthdays and seasonal festivities which were recorded on video and film.Qualities one hoped their upbringing had imbued them with emerged, and thus Di and I felt a warm sense of satisfaction.The sufferer can become immersed in somewhat selfishly looking after his own feelings and so I have endeavoured to be understanding of Dianne's emotions and needs. We have talked and laughed often between 2am and 3am.Naturally, I have spent time contemplating the meaning of life and the concept of after life.Put simply, when I drop off the perch I will revert to that state I was in before birth _ that state I was in when Charles I lost his head, when Lalor stood on his stump at Eureka, when swaggies jumped the rattlers during the depression.Physically I feel that I will be reclaimed by the earth.I am secure and comfortable with these views however they might be seen to be simplistic or half baked.The meaning of life centres upon relationships.Good arises from the warmth of feelings and interaction between beings _ is not this the essence of love?Thus I have spent time enhancing my friendships with a wide range of peoples, conversation lubricated by coffee and ports at local cafes, in pubs or by the warmth of campfires.We have discussed politics, planned outback trips and engaged in much banter.I have also analysed past relationships and have been keen to repair any connections in which I may have been unfair or too quick in judgement.It is important to depart without leaving apologies unsaid, without offering closure on unresolved matters.I have been overwhelmed and reassured by the support shown to me by the Ballarat community.The Ballarat Grammar and McCallum House communities, where Dianne and I have been employed for many years, have been wonderful in their support, both covertly and overtly.Within the wider Ballarat community, I have been stunned by the greetings of casual acquaintances whom I felt I barely knew.I am immensely appreciative of and value the warmth of feeling demonstrated within Ballarat.Undoubtedly this has been one of the benefits of living for a long period in a provincial city.Friends and acquaintances have responded in differing ways.I have attempted to place all at ease chuckling over lines like "They say only the good die young"; "I'm trying to be as bad as possible!" or when discussing a future event proclaiming "that will only happen over my dead body!".One sidelight has been that people have suddenly returned books I loaned them years ago whilst others have shouted meals with the imputation being that this is their last chance.I have felt tremendous reassurance through the fine medical attention received in Ballarat.There are medicos who affect a bedside manner which borders on flippancy; there are those doctors, especially younger practitioners, who have difficulty in telling of impending deaths for they see this as failure and there are a few who see patients as lumps of meat.Yet the Ballarat specialists, urologists and radiographers, and other staff with whom I have been dealing have been superb for their basic integrity and underlying morality shines through, imbuing their patient with trust and confidence.My road ahead will no doubt be rougher over the next months or, hopefully years.In the past I have had little pain or discomfort and on the exterior have appeared a picture of health, so much so there have been quips of malingering.Recent testing has indicated unwanted progression in the bones.However in tying up the loose ends, I have spent time reading and discussing palliative care.Sharing such investigations with the family reassures them, although they are quick to suggest that my thoughts on a funeral service would mean it and the accompanying wake could go on for several days.My approach to living with cancer was best summed up recently by a medico who called it the COAL approach: Creativity in taking up opportunities, Openness, Acceptance, and Love.The past year has involved some of the best experiences of my life; the illness has strengthened relationships with my wife and children and hopefully with others in the community, and I am able to look forward to further living in the months to come.