My List for Living

Finally here it is.

There are no must-dos or should-dos. Just lots of love-to-dos.

Some people will call this my bucket list but I’m not a fan of that term. This is about living life to full while I can and not about focusing on the dying.

It was quite difficult to write as I don’t know how long I’ve got. I could get very sick soon and never properly recover. I might not be able to travel again. I wondered if I should have a short list but then I thought nah… let’s just put everything on it and see what happens.

The first five things are the most important to me. If I get to tick those off I’ll be happy. Doing all the other ones will be a bonus. After the top five, the rest of the list is in no particular order.

Deciding on what to do has been partly inspired by my original List for Living. That was the list of ten things I wanted to do after I was treated for cancer for the first time more than a decade ago. Back then I longed to live somewhere totally different. I wanted adventure, thrills and animal magic. To have a life without any regrets.

I’ve also been looking at other people’s lists. They’ve helped with ideas of what to add to my list. And what to leave off, like having a perm, trying balsamic vinegar and (this is one of my favourites) getting a pair of thigh high boots and wearing them without feeling like a hooker. I think I may have done those anyway!

Many of the things on my list are fun and quite easy. Others will be very hard to do. Some require me to live for a long time and prove the doctors wrong. A few are almost stupidly unattainable.

But I know that when I wrote my first List for Living it included dreams that I thought were practically impossible. The list led me to achieve more than I ever imagined. Now I hope that what will be my last List for Living will again give my life purpose with incredible goals to aim for.

Being told that your life will be cut short makes you realise what’s important in life. When you think about it, there’s not much that really matters apart from the people who mean the most to you. I’m going to do most of the list with family and friends. It’s a fantastic excuse for us to do amazing things and create some wonderful memories.

I may change the list or add more things to do along the way. My List for Living also has its own page on this blog so I can tick stuff off. Something I love to do and something I’ve already started. You see, I have a confession. In between compiling my list and writing this blog post, I’ve actually gone and done one of them!

Despite the speedy start, I’m sure there will be many items left that I don’t get to do. This is where my friends and family come in, again. I’ll be leaving the remainder of the list to them. I’d like them to take over my List for Living. To carry my dreams with them after I’ve gone.


My List for Living

1) Move to the countryside

2) Live in my own house

3) Get a dog

4) Play a netball game, again

5) Recover from chemo on a ridiculously perfect beach

6) See penguins in the South Pole

7) Go to Paris by Eurostar just for lunch (DONE!)

8) Visit Pompeii and drive along the Amalfi coast

9) Explore the ancient ruins in Rome

10) Snorkel on a coral reef

11) Trek in Nepal

12) Go to the 2016 Olympics in Rio

13) See the Northern Lights

14) Ride a camel across a desert

15) Drink a mojito in Cuba

16) See Stonehenge at sunrise

17) Go into space

18) Get married

19) Get my book published

20) Present a BBC Radio 4 programme

21) Hold an exhibition of my cow photographs

22) Do voluntary work

23) Run a 5K

24) Sky dive

25) Go gliding

26) Ride a horse through Hyde Park

27) Try kite surfing

28) Zoom down a zip wire

29) Surf somewhere hot

30) Go coastering somewhere cold

31) Take a speed boat down the Thames

32) Swing on a trapeze

33) Fly in a hot air balloon

34) Take a private jet over London

35) Fly in a stealth airplane

36) Be driven very fast around a race track in a sports car

37)  Sleep under the stars

38) Get a tattoo

39) Have a henna crown painted on my baldy head once the hair falls out

40) Grow my hair long, again

41) Be a model and work the catwalk

42) Learn to play poker

43) Pull a pint in a proper pub

44) Hold a party in a castle

45) Go glassblowing

46) See puffins in Britain

47) Swim with sharks

48) Sail alongside a pod of dolphins at sea

49) Catch fireflies in a jar

50) Drink champagne in one of the best bars in the world just before Christmas to celebrate still being alive.

39 thoughts on “My List for Living

  1. Ok I’m pretty sure I can sort out no 32!


    Lovely list x

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. What a wonderful list!!! I truly wish that you get to do the majority, if not all of the list yourself and that your friends and family are left many years from now wondering what to do with themselves as you have had the time to be there, done that and bought the t-shirts.

  3. Wonderful imaginative list. Hope you get many more crossed off. Wishing you well and admiring your courage.

  4. Well Helen there’s a simple answer to your wish list
    It can all be done by you being turned into a female James Bond
    There are probably at least two films worth of excitement in that list.
    You would make an excellent spy – you just need to persuade someone to put up a few million pounds – and who would your leading man be Ms Bond? X

      • Can recommend a Cairn x Poodle. We have Barney who is exactly that. Loves a long walk but doesn’t fret too much if it’s only a short one. Always happy when I get in. Doesn’t leave your side if you’re not feeling well – had proper flu a while ago – he only left my side to eat,drink & poo!! All in all my best pal (don’t tell my husband & kids ;) )

      • We have a lovely Stafforshire Bull Terrier. We found her wandering the streets about 5 years ago, you could of mistaken her as a Whippet. She has a wonderful temperament and a great companion for the whole family. A friend of mine has a Cocker spaniel and he says they are a lovely dog with not so much spring in them as a “Springer” !!!! Good luck with the search.

  5. Inspirational – I hope you achieve them all – I’m going to write my list and hang it on the wall – and hopefully cross them off one by one – thank you

  6. Listened to you on radio 2 recently, you are an inspiration.
    Love your list, the dog will bring you true companionship and happiness.
    Stay strong x

  7. Hi Helen,. A lovely and varied “list for living”, some much easier to cross off than others. Do you have any set plan to do for example one a week or will they just happen as and when the opportunity arises? I guess that quite a few can be achieved with the help of your many followers here, you already have a couple of offers above. Number 46 is something I have yet to cross off my list and would love to do it with you.

    Please, please let us know as each one is crossed off.

    Take care, Russ

  8. Wonderful list! Funny, but it resembles a list I have in my own head. Some of the things I have checked off, ziplining in Belize, tattoo, snorkeling. Although, once you have done these things, you cannot help but want to do them again in different areas of the world (or your body!) Here is hoping that you get to every item on your list at least once!

  9. Hi Helen, i heard your interview on radio 2 on Monday and was so touched by your strength and optimism. I had breast cancer last year and although i have had a good prognosis and am trying to resume my ‘normal’ life i find that sometimes i am stumbling along, i think through having lived most of last year in fear, rather than grasping every opportunity. Your list for living and hearing how positive you remain is an inspiration to me, you are in my thoughts. Tracy

    • I recognise that ‘stumbling along’ feeling, Tracy. And I also think that sometimes there’s way too much pressure on cancer patients/survivors to “grasp every opportunity”, mostly from ourselves no dúo y. Maybe we also need to include ” Be kind to myself” on any list for living? It’s not necessarily about the big adventures, it’s also about the ‘how’ of living.

  10. Great list!!!!

    As I lie here in hospital (after an bowel resection for Crohh’s, not cancer) it has inspired me! I wil follow my dreams!

    All the best in competing your list :)


  11. As inspirational as ever, Helen. Glad you had a brilliant time in Paris. Regarding number 20 on the list, I’ve just emailed Gwyneth Williams, the controller of Radio 4, to tell her it would be a criminal waste of airtime not to get you on. Am sure this old hack who deserted News for Sport does not have any influence whatsoever, but you can at least probably add another follower to your blog…
    Good luck with everything x

  12. I kinda wanted one too. Like you I have an incurable cancer (currently in remission though), and like you don’t like the name ‘Bucket List’. Now I’m inspired… ‘A List for Living’ is the perfect name. Thank you!

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  14. Hi Helen. I just wanted to share with you that your inspiration is spiralling out into the world. Like Deb, I’ve published mine in my blog ( and from that, a number of my friends and blog followers are saying they’re going to write their own list.

    One of the items that I borrowed from the Life’d list, is to help someone else fulfil a desire. If one desire is to write a list for living, then you need to know you have already helped a number of people to do just that… without even trying… just by being you. Many thanks! x

  15. A lovely list, Helen, which has sparked a “what would your list be” conversation at home. I hope you tick all the boxes. And may I recommend the Farne Islands to see puffins….? A beautiful part of the world with some magical castles for that party! ;)

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