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November 16 , 2007

When I Die

Lessons from the Death Zone


On 29 January 2008 Philip Gould was told he had cancer. He was stoical, and set about his treatment, determined to fight his illness. In the face of difficult decisions he sought always to understand the disease and the various medical options open to him, supported by his wife Gail and their two daughters, Georgia and Grace.

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In 2010, after two hard years of chemotherapy and surgery, the tests came up clear - Philip appeared to have won the battle. But his work as a key strategist for the Labour party took its toll, and feeling ill six months later, he insisted on one extra, precautionary test, which told him that the cancer had returned. Thus began Philip's long, painful but ultimately optimistic journey towards death, during which time he began to appreciate and make sense of his life, his work and his relationships in a way he had never thought possible. He realized something that he had never heard articulated before: death need not be only negative or painful, it can be life-affirming and revelatory.

Written during the last few months of his life, When I Die describes the journey Philip took with his illness, leaving to us what he called his lessons from the death zone. This courageous, profoundly moving and inspiring work is as valuable a legacy to the world as anyone could wish to bestow - hugely uplifting, beautifully written with extraordinary insight.

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