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!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Whisky, Red and 'The Slap'

Home from Scotland just in time to see the X Factor. That said, after 8 hours of Hattie shouting in the car (with Ed and Martha contributing) over Harry Potter on the Ipod - I'm not sure that I can cope with anything noisier than a darkened room and a very large whisky.

And.... very exciting. My copy of the December edition of Red was waiting for me on the doormat. And there, in black and white was MY ARTICLE!! The photos aren't too bad considering I'm not exactly a natural supermodel. It feels a bit wierd but I'm very pleased with it.

Definitely a darkened room and some whisky.

P.S Has anyone read 'The Slap' by Christos Tsiolkas? I read mixed reviews but am now, only a little way in, completely hooked. So far so good I think.

Friday, 29 October 2010


We've been up here in the Highlands of Scotland for the past week and are finally packing up to come home. It's been a lovely week - all the family here at the start: nephews, my brother and sister and my mum, and then people gradually drifting home until all that's left is our immediate family and my mum. The weather has been truly Scottish - rainy and windy, so much so that today I haven't really fancied putting my nose out of the door.

We all try to get together around this time each year. Twelve years ago my dad died at the age of 54 after a protracted struggle with HIV - contracted after he was given infected blood products with which to treat his haemophilia. I was 28, my siblings younger and my mum was 50. He didn't get to meet our partners or any of his 8 grandchildren. His death tore our family apart - we all adored him and nothing has seemed the same for our family since.

A year after he died we scattered his ashes up here in the Summer Isles at a place he'd always loved and now we gather each October just to be together.

I truly miss my Dad. I got on with him so well. He was a deeply humorous, very intelligent man - and we would sometimes talk late into the night about anything and everything if the opportunity presented itself. He would have been a tremendous support for me in the past couple of awful years. But so much more than that, he would have been so happy to see my beautiful family, and such a lovely grandfather to the kids. We've all missed out. But him more than anyone of course.

So, dad - I want to say that I miss you. But you know that - or maybe you do if you're somewhere around. Now though I have to go and get your youngest granddaughter from her afternoon sleep. Cross Hattie and you get a cross Hattie is all I'll say.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

No Results and Nigella

Well - no results I guess means good results?

I'm still feeling under the weather and inexplicably really feeling more than a little low, but I did haul my ass to the gym yesterday so I'm pleased about that.

I've just bought Nigella Lawson's new cookbook, 'Kitchen', in an attempt to cheer myself up. It's truly lovely - maybe I should cook my way through every recipe in the book a la Julie Powell and Julia Child - but don't worry, if I do I won't blog about it! I might just mention the odd delightful concoction.

Damn! Hattie's just woken up too early from her afternoon sleep after a crazy hailstorm which clattered in a very un-necessary loud way on the slopy loft roof and velux windows. I could hear it on the baby monitor which we still use because she's two floors up when I'm downstairs. Shall I ignore her sporadic cries of 'mummeeee' for a while as well?

Quick cup of tea I think.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


So, I went to the hospital today. The consultant checked my back and felt my neck for lumps. She acknowledged that it was indeed lumpy and when I asked her if she was worried she said she wasn't. Immediately after that she asked me when they last took blood and said they should do it today. I'm trying to imagine that it was just a co-incidence that she decided to mention that directly after feeling my neck. I guess it is just routine - that said, they haven't been checked since April. The doctor seemed fairly casual and I made an appointment to come back for my next routine check-up in January. I hope she's not thinking that she'll see me sooner.

Blood results won't tell me directly anything definitely about whether the cancer has returned or not. They test for liver function, red and white blood cells and also there is a check on whether a certain scary marker has risen or not. If that marker has risen, that can indicate tumour growth, but it doesn't necessarily. Then they start those horrible CT scans. Even writing this is making me feel panicky.

Lets hope the blood tests were just routine and that they're fine. Oh my God.... I hope.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


I'm feeling low. Tomorrow I have one of my three-monthly check up appointments at the hospital. If you've been following me for a while, you know how I feel about these, and if you haven't you can no doubt guess.

As usual when these appointments roll around I'm feeling rubbish. It's sod's law that I should have sinusitis just before it - something which harrassed me all of last year but which has stayed away for longer this year as my immune system improves. But now I've painful lumps in my neck which are always a cause for concern, despite logic telling me they're not cancer lumps but sinus-y,virus-y lumps. I'm feeling exhausted which is a cause for concern despite too many late nights, sinusitis, and the worry which sits very heavily on my shoulders at times. And I don't want to walk in through the doors of the hospital feeling anything less than brilliant.

I'm taking Hattie with me. My friend has offered to look after her for me but I've decided that I need her. As much as anything else she is a talisman for me - to ward off the fear, and to make me feel normal..... not someone living with cancer, living with the terror of dying young. I can't disappear into myself too much when I'm in the waiting room if Hattie's running around - although I may regret it after I've been there a while with a crazy toddler.

I wish I could run away from everything sometimes. Still, time ticks onwards and I'm still well....I hope. I think the emotional legacy of what happened to me is something which will take a lot longer to fade. On the surface I look fine - but underneath things are often in turmoil.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Apprentice Joy

I love 'The Apprentice'! Oh how I love 'The Apprentice'. My all-time favourite TV show (maybe apart from Mad Men) is back. Hooray! Could they all be any more self-deluding? It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry. I've been trying to stick to my diet but I HAD to eat some Smarties in celebration.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


Here's a poem I wrote a while ago.

Fighting Tigers

In Ancient Rome
slaves would fight savage, crazy tigers.
The stadiums - filled with screaming, lustful citizens -
must have echoed; ricocheting back to the roaring crowd.
But close up, I’d imagine that things felt a little different.

The sweaty piss-stained legs just holding the body upright.
The stave, sharpened to a comic point,
the roar of the crowd a scratchy whisper
as cat creeps nearer – great stripy tail twitching.
Carnivorous breath imagined hot on the cheek,
Or legs
Or back
While heavy barbed claw, quick as a viper
swipes the very life from you.

Thrusting a stick was never a good defence
in the face of such menace.

And so it is today.
The tiger I fight is a different kind – you’ll have guessed.
The snarling stripy metaphor not even a good one.
I should have tried harder.

The immediate terror, the fear is buried.
It doesn’t have a shape, or fabulous fur
burning bright.

My tiger, to flog a dead horse,
Is nebulous.
Whether it gets me in the end or not depends on luck;
on a body sensible enough to recognise and destroy
what hasn’t been invited and which shouldn’t have come.

Maybe it helped the Roman slave to be able to see what
he was fighting.
Not much though in the end.
He still wound up dead.

Fighting tigers is not really advisable.

Under any circumstances.

Friday, 1 October 2010

To Newcastle

Yesterday evening I went to hear Ian McEwan speak at the Newcastle University, just over the river from where we live in Gateshead. He was amazing - so clever, articulate and erudite. Well, what would you expect from Ian McEwan?

I left here at 6.30pm. Rog had just walked in the door while I attempted to make a pretty sharp exit. And I left - the kids to their bed-time routine and the house to its mess.

Later, after the event I walked on my own back to the car across the beautiful old campus, underneath the ivy-covered arches and I felt acutely transported back to another time in my life 20 years before.

You see, I did my undergraduate degree at this university, far away from what was my home then in the south of England and when I worked it out it really was 20 years ago - more - when I started.

Walking across the flagstones past the building in which I had studied, all those years ago, I passed a group of students - kids they looked to me - with arms linked, all chatting and laughing. I felt as if I was passing myself coming the other way. Would I recognise my 41 year-old self, filled with different pre-occupations, hurrying back in the other direction to my three children? Would I have expected my life to have been as it has?

Cutting through onto the road I'd parked my car, the hospital loomed dark against the night sky. And there too were so many memories. In that hospital was where I'd had my three babies, and also where I'd had all my cancer treatment. The actual ward three storeys up where I'd endured my chemotherapy and my bone marrow transplant had been due for demolition not long after my treatment finished. The building was shaped like a thin arm and for a long time the partial demolition cut open the end so one could see inside the three storeys at once like a tube with the end severed. Into that maw I could see the space where the beds had been, hanging open to the elements. Because there were people who were so very sick in that ward, fresh air was not allowed. Instead there was some kind of system which kept the air purified and hideously stuffy - it was one of the many discomforts about staying there. I would drive past and feel glad that there was air in there at last.

Now, however that part of the hospital has been entirely demolished, and the cancer centre rebuilt elsewhere in the city with flash new facilities and all mod-cons - that's where I have my appointments now. And back at the old hospital the space where I had all my treatment just doesn't exist anymore. It's thin air. And that makes me feel very very strange. It's almost like a dream - or a nightmare. It's almost like it didn't happen. But that ward, those rooms, that space where my worst nightmare did come true are etched in my mind and in my memory. I dream about them and they don't exist anymore. I cannot successfully convey how uneasy their absence makes me feel.

Driving home over the beautiful Tyne Bridge, the river lit up by lights on the Millenium Bridge and the Sage, I realised what a connection I have with the city of Newcastle. It's my home now - my adopted home. Twenty-two years ago I came here to study English at the university. I had a fabulous time and made friends and memories which last until today. Then I left for a few years - did my teacher training in the south and worked for a while down there. But the place lured me back and for the past 14 years I've lived in Northumberland and then the city. I've married here, had my children here, nearly died here and hopefully will grow old here.

I miss where I grew up and those country lanes along whch I walked and rode are part of my fabric but this city is a shape superimposed on top, blending and blurring until I almost can't tell which came first. My southern accent will forever mark me out as a newcomer, my children are already skilfuly mixing the Geordie and the South in their speech. And they truly belong to the city, born in the centre. This is their home.