Kate's Blog

Follow me if you will as I try to navigate through the ups and downs of my world.

I'm writing this blog to help me make sense of all that has happened - from my diagnosis with non-Hodgkins lymphoma while pregnant with my third child in May 2008
, through to my reflections on chaotic family life as I try to pick up the pieces of my life again.

The kids are so small, and I'm working hard to keep us all safe and to stay in remission.

Stay with me - it won't be all doom and gloom I promise!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

What's in YOUR Bag??

Well - thanks Diney over at Older Mums Are Fun for tagging me. I love your blog. But now I have to - in the spirit of reciprocity and tagging- tell you all what's in the dark recesses of my handbag!!

Oh.... did you mention Orla Kiely? Sorry. I thought I heard you say Orla Kiely... Yes, I DO have a beautiful Orla Kiely bag to which I devoted an entire post not so long ago. However, before you wish me suffocated with my Orla Kiely bag over my head (how many times can I say it? I'm annoying myself) let me tell you that the other day in Sainsbury's while I was lovingly carrying her, my bag slung casually but stylishly over my shoulder, Hattie was hideously sick all over AND INSIDE my bag. And the floor. And the rest of me. And some shopping which was in a bag on the floor. See pride does come before a fall after all. The other lesson I've learned is that I shouldn't try to pretend that I can carry off style and parenting at the same time (or separately come to that). It's all so very sad.

As is what's inside my bag which I can't pretend hints at a hot and sexy secret existence. So here goes.... try to stay awake for the end of the list if you can.

Lip balm (Neal's Yard) - totally necessary due to ridiculous changeable weather and central heating. Again - the chapped lips look isn't the most stylish, but one which creeps up on me all too quickly if I don't use this baby regularly.

My filofax - Strangely I don't have many meetings with the PM, publishers and agents just at the moment, but it's always useful to have it with me should I need to know for example at any given moment exactly when the kids' dentist appointments are!! My filofax is actually quite a lovely version, made of fabric and given to me the Christmas I was pregnant with Hattie just before I became ill. Oddly I still have squashed into it my diary for 2008 and 2009 as well as 2010. It's some kind of superstitous thing - all my chemotherapy appointments, Hattie's birth, my radiotherapy dates are there superimposed onto earlier entries to do with work I thought I'd have to do before starting my maternity leave, before I knew that my life was going to change out of all recognition. I guess I should get rid of those years, but somehow at the moment it seems necessary to keep them.

My sunglasses - Yes, very necessary at the moment in the snow and pouring rain!! But I bought them last summer at a fanatastic market in Sarlat in the Dordogne. We took the kids camping in France -an amazing and exhausting holiday, long before I was anywhere near being well but a holiday to prove that things were getting back to some sense of normality.

My Orla Kiely purse. Need I say anything? Actually I'm not exactly sure that Rog exactly knows about this purse. Not exactly. Hmmmmm.

A sock - Hattie's

A pair of socks - Ed's

My digital camera - I'm trying hard to take more photos before I blink and the kids are leaving home.

My book - I'm just starting 'February' by Lisa Moore. I don't ever get to read through the day, but I can't take the risk that Hattie might fall asleep somewhere in the car or buggy and I can sneak a few pages. I'm laughed at by my family and friends for always, always having a book - and lugging it around the supermarket, on the school run, wherever. It started when I was a child. We'd go on family holidays to Yorkshire, Northumberland or Scotland and I'd have my nose in a book from the start to the end. I'd read through picnics, drives in the car, rainy afternoons in the caravan - much to the utter disgust of my brother, and sometimes the irritation of the rest of my family.

Ibroprufen and paracetamol - I like to have a choice when it comes to killing pain.

Neal's Yard Calm Spritzer - I'm a bit of a Neal's Yard fan as you can tell. This smells lovely.

I hope there's nothing unpleasant left in the bottom of the bag connected with the nasty incident in the supermarket - I don't think so.

I have to say that the above is a little too much for an Orla Kiely bag! It's kind of a little out of shape. My reality is hard to contain in a piece of frippery - lovely though it is and that's the sad truth.

Are you still with me? Well if you are, here's the part when I'm going to tag some other bloggers whom I read regularly as well as a couple of new finds - so that they can tell us all what's in THEIR bag!

Rebecca at Letters to the World

Tracey at uno, dos, tracey

Jane at ExmoorJane


The Dotterel (Ok, so maybe you don't have a handbag - but you must have some sort of bag) at Bringing up Charlie

Debra at Menopausal New Mom


Tuesday, 23 February 2010

To Meditate or not to Meditate

I'm not getting on with the whole meditation thing. I'm missing the point, I know I am - but when the baby only has one sleep a day, and when in that time before getting the kids from school I have to get all the house stuff done (damn, just realised I haven't put the washing on), write something, and rest if possible as I'm still so tired; I find it difficult to spend 45 mins sitting on a chair focusing on my breath.

I'm halfway through doing my course which runs on a Tuesday evening. It cost money - which I don't want to waste, but I'm not sure I'm at the right time in my life to do this. At the moment it just feels like one more thing which is hassling me and which I have to do. Not really the idea. But I kind of feel like it's going to be hard to extricate myself from the group. Aaargh! This is typical of my life at the moment - in a bid to get well, cope with stress, lose weight, get fit etc etc I'm putting pressure on myself which doesn't really help me to relax or feel in control.

I haven't been doing the daily practices - and obviously until I do, I'm not going to get the benefit of them if there is a benefit to be had. But my days pass in a blur and I'm not sure that I'm able to commit to doing them. Bloody hell.

Oh - and the blood results need repeating, but they certainly indicate a low white cell count which obviously still means that I'm going to be prone to more infections for the time being. But, I went to our local fitness centre this morning with Hattie and checked out the creche - a step closer to those boxercise classes!

Sunday, 21 February 2010


P.S. And anyhow, I should have been more organised because obviously the coats are not going to dry before tomorrow. And it's snowing. What was I thinking? Clearly not only can I not write like Virginia Woolf (or anyone else for that matter), neither can I excel in the best mother in the school playground competition.

And I'm about to make a shepherd's pie which will take longer to cook than the kids can wait, partly because (and the 'because' refers not to the fact that I'm making the pie, but to the fact that the said pie won't be ready by tea-time) I'm writing this and prevaricating in lots of small ways; by being un-necessarily wordy for one example, the others (examples, that is) about which you don't even need to know. (see!!?)

Peeling potatoes? Ugh!

Back to School

Oh - it's Sunday! And the kids are back at school tomorrow. I'm washing uniform, coats and all manner of tedious things. Did Virginia Woolf have to do this kind of thing? I think not! On the other hand, she could write quite well........

Monday, 15 February 2010

Half Term

So - Roger has gone to St Petersburg and left me with the kids for half term. This has been very helpful and I have found my exhaustion levels reaching new and dizzy heights.

But, we've de-bunked to my mother's house. Actually, my mum owns and runs a lovely and quite well-known pub on the Northumberland coast. Literally on the beach. She lives above the pub and the kids spend delirious and happy times here drinking hot chocolate and walking on the beach, playing in the dunes and riding ponies. So it's not all bad.

The sea is fabulous - stormy and grey: sitting in her kitchen drinking coffee you can watch the waves rolling and crashing just a stone's throw away. It's cold here but it's lovely to get away from the city and lovely to see the kids falling exhausted into bed after so much exercise and fresh air.

It won't stop Ed getting up at 6am though. I'm resigned to his early rising until the teenage years hit - he doesn't seem to be growing out of it like all his friends and his younger sisters. The most I can do is threaten him on pain of some terrible punishment not to wake anyone else in the house. But he's too unaware of how noisy is his every move to manage even that. Hmmm.

Rog's back on Thursday - I'm handing the kids to him quick-smart mind you the moment he's home, while I lie in a darkened room. I've had some blood results back which might indicate at the reason for some of my tiredness - more details after I've spoken to the doctor. Hopefully it's nothing to worry about. Hopefully.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Damn - again!!

I have tonsilitis - woke today feeling just terrible.

Went to the doctor (after refereeing usual morning chaos and doing the school run in the pouring rain - no let up for illness of course. Rog went to work as usual at the crack of dawn). The doctor says it's a horrible dose and I have to take 8(!!) penicillin tablets a day.

Rog did come back from work early though and I'm 'resting' on the sofa while he puts the kids to bed. They do keep bursting in but it's a real novelty to be sneakily on the computer, watching 'Neighbours' and 'Home and Away' at 6pm.

If I could only swallow and turn my fat neck more than ever so slightly things would be perfect. What an attractive image I paint hey??

By the way, am trying to write seriously, meditate and exercise but keep being thwarted. Damn!!!!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


I love food.

Today, I have another bug despite trying to eat healthily and drink my smoothies everyday. My neck has swollen up to body-builder proportions (yes, really -very attractive!) and I'm finding it hard to talk and swallow. And I cannot get an appointment with the doctor until tomorrow.

Despite this, and despite the fact that I've looked after the 3 kids all day with multiple school runs, tea-making and putting to bed single-handedly as Rog is working late, my mind is running on food. Specifically food that I would love to eat in my invalid (ha, ha) state but not have to cook.........

Fish pie - the luxurious version with smoked fish and prawns, spaghetti with garlic, white wine and chilli, bolognese with mushrooms and red wine, homemade tomato soup with cream and croutons. Not to mention strawberry fool, chocolate mousse, and rum and raisin ice-cream.

But, delirious dreaming aside - I'm going to have to pull myself off the sofa to see what I can quickly put together instead. I've sort of collapsed for the evening so I fear it may be toast and marmite. Not quite what the doctor ordered.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Come For Tea?

My friend offered to make tea for my kids today after school. She knows I'm struggling at the moment. How nice is that?

'Lovely', I said.

We arrived, all three on the doorstep at about 3.45. She has a son who's the same age as Ed and a daughter a couple of years older. She also has a grown-up son who's away at uni - major respect and awed envy at having managed to raise a child to adulthood. Ed and her son haven't met for a while as they go to different schools, but they soon bonded over the Wii (the object of Ed's greatest desire as we don't have one, although how long we'll be able to hold out is anyone's guess). Martha was in deep awe and wonder at her 8 year-old daughter who was sufficiently glamorous and worldly to induce hero-worship to a major degree. Martha had brought her new colouring book and they coloured together lying on their fronts on the floor, Martha maintaining a respectful silence.

And Hattie? She played, wriggled, watched the fish, ate the tea and inexplicably projectile vomited in the way that she never has done before, all over herself, me and the floor! I hasten to add that the tea was innocuous fishfingers, pizza, chips and peas. We're not talking fricassee of chicken livers (???). My friend was lovely about it of course but really!

There was an unpleasant aroma around me on the way home, while Hattie sported a fetching outfit found at the bottom of the changing bag I'd luckily brought with me -an outfit clearly packed in the summer when she was approximately 2 feet shorter than she is now.

'Never a dull moment', I laughed to my friend as we slid out of the door......

'Come again', she said.

But you know what - I actually think she meant it.

I'll bring my own collapsible mop and disinfectant in the changing bag next time though.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Lost Follower

Well - I lost a follower after the last post.


I'll try not to take it personally.

But sometimes I can't sugar-coat how I feel. Sometimes I don't want to. This blog is my personal chronicle as well as something which other people can choose to read or not. I love the support I get from readers - and I feel real connection with some. I guess at times my writing is a bit brutal, but it's honest. I don't always feel brave, noble or even nice about what's happened to me. And I always feel weary.

And I do post about other stuff too for heaven's sake.

Tired? What Do You Mean?

This may sound like moaning - I hope it doesn't sound like moaning because I don't think it is.

This morning I had a clinic appointment with the consultant who has been looking after me since I was diagnosed nearly 2 years ago.

We started off talking about my scan.

"That's really good news", she said. "The tumour was so aggressive that to have achieved a year in remission is pretty good going."

"That's great", I said. "I'm still feeling really tired and struggling with managing the kids full-time on my own, though. Do you think that the treatment I had is still having an effect?"

"I wouldn't have thought so. No."

No! No? No? Am I going crazy?

Let's get this straight. This time two years ago I was growing an aggressive tumour and a baby. Since then I have had the baby, experienced a year of aggressive treatment, 'all they could throw at me', as it's been described. My stem cell transplant which is so toxic they don't administer to people over 55, and which comes with a serious mortality rate attached to it for those under 55, was less than 18 months ago. My radiotherapy finished 12 months ago. Through all that, and since, I've been looking after the kids, getting up with my newborn in the middle of the night, doing the shopping and the cooking. With some help but mostly myself. Not to mention recovering from the pregnancy and immediately hitting a severe and debilitating menopause practically before the baby was born. By the way - were there any other people of my age waiting with a squirming toddler for and hour and a quarter in the waiting room today? No, they were all old people reading magazines and books who could bloody well rest all day. Lucky? Me? Clever old me to get a massively rare form of a cancer that other people get when they're old in a much more treatable form.

But, a year on I should be feeling as full of energy and stamina as I did before this happened? Right!!

The tiredness I experience is like walking through thick mud wearing an iron helmet. It sits on my head and fills my limbs with sand. I watch Hattie teetering on a chair and I find myself calculating the likelihood of her falling and really hurting herself as opposed to just a mild bang because I'm too tired to get up unless I have to.

All I want is a little validation - a little, "You're doing amazingly considering what you've been through", from medical people who KNOW what I've been through. It's not as if I'd get anything positive from pretending I was tired - I still get to look after the kids, do the school runs, do the washing, shopping and cooking not to mention the cleaning (ha, ha) whether I say I'm tired or not. And if anyone else tells me that I've three small kids and I would be tired I'll scream. Yes that's true but this exhaustion is not like that tiredness. And I know. Because three years ago I had two small children who were at home all day and I was managing them and managing a stressful and demanding job. I couldn't do that now. I don't feel anywhere near being able to do that now. I don't feel the same. And it would have helped so much if I had heard last year that it might take me a couple of years to feel back to my old self - or maybe the hormonal situation might mean that I'll never feel completely ok. Who knows. I went to the Macmillan centre after my appointment and got given leaflets on massages, make-overs and having afternoon rests after chemotherapy. The point is, I have to do all this stuff - I can't have afternoon rests, but it would be great not to have to be a doctor to myself and give myself the licence to feel as I do. Because the pressure which I feel to be back to normal, to be better is huge. I pressure myself and I need to let up.

It's not as if I could be accused of sitting with my head under the covers, wailing at what's happened to me. I'm looking after my family, I'm learning to meditate, I'm booking holidays, I'm writing, I'm trying to lose weight. I don't think that's bad going. Talk about being cast adrift without support after experiencing this trauma. I wrote a post sometime ago about this, having heard some senior bloke from the Macmillan Trust on the radio talking about this issue. Pity it doesn't translate into practical help, support and sympathy when you feel you need it.

You know what? I don't even care if this sounds like I'm upset about nothing. Or feeling sorry for myself. Actually today I am feeling pretty sorry for myself. I started this blog for me, to help me chart my progress through this experience. And maybe I'll look back on this post in January 2012, fighting fit and energetic - if I'm still here - and wish that I could have known how long it would all take.

I started the HRT again last night by the way. Boo.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

February Snow

Now the house is quiet and it's snowing, large heavy flakes which aren't yet settling but which are pouring out of the sky with such a momentum that looking upwards for more than a few seconds makes me feel dizzy.

I'm not rushing today - after yesterday I woke today tired and stiff and achy. Too much stress. I have a busy afternoon ahead and an evening learning to be calm at my meditation class - which in itself feels like just one more thing to do before I can sleep again. So now I'm watching the snow, drinking coffee, reading and (quickly) writing a post. I've decided that too much time at the computer isn't so good for me. I need to revisit my old peaceful pastimes which I loved before I stepped a little too far into the technological age.

It's a good morning so far - even the school run went reasonably smoothly! And I treated Ed on the first attempt last night. Hattie is asleep - I'm hoping for at least another hour. Fingers crossed.

Monday, 1 February 2010


AAAArgh - Monday morning. Shouted at the kids, shouted some more, drove them to school in total rage. Calmed down somewhat after they'd disappeared into the building. Took baby to supermarket - not really a baby now, really a toddler - very very heavy to stuff/squash into trolley seat. Did shopping, drove home. Lugged bags of very heavy shopping up steep very slippery back steps, then did same with baby. Put shopping away, put baby away (for sleep!!), made smoothie and pot of very strong coffee. Made phone-calls and filled out speeding ticket fine - yup, I do really need to slow down and then sat down to my blog. All before midday. I'm too tired - wish I'd had kids in my twenties, or at least when I had some hormones to help.

As you can see - meditation not doing a great deal at the moment.