Dear Cancer…

Dear Cancer,

It has been an extremely interesting 2 years getting to know you. You gave me quite a shock in America all those months ago. To be honest your appearance in my life at that time was unwanted and frightening. My career was flourishing and we were planning to start a family. You took away all those aspirations in one fail swoop and left me in a mutilated and depressed state. I’m not sure I can ever properly forgive you for that although I immediately accepted that this was how my life was going to be, and that you were to be a constant companion that I was going to have to learn to get along with.

The months of treatment to suppress you and bring you under control took their toll on me both physically and mentally until I decided to stop the treatment and let you do your worst. I was determined to keep smiling and live my life to the full including a return to work before you got the better of me. In some ways it is because of you that I have been able to live the most wonderful lifestyle for the past year. I never would have been able to meet the Queen if it wasn’t for you so in a strange kind of way I am grateful. I think you have made me into a much more tolerant, optimistic and happy person and I thank you for that.   

Well, you’ve been asleep now for 19 months. I wonder every day how to keep you settled and peaceful in your slumber. I also wonder every day when you are going to awaken and how you plan to take my life. Are you going to obstruct my bowels? Are you going to cause a pulmonary embolism? Are you just going to overwhelm my body? I guess you haven’t decided this yet yourself, but please be kind and let it be quick whichever way you finally settle on.

Kind regards, 

Kate x


32 thoughts on “Dear Cancer…

  1. moving and pertinent discussion with your constant companion, as I have with mine. One thing that always annoys me is the description of someone who dies of cancer “losing the fight….” It isn’t a fight; it’s a partnership in which – I think – the better we get on the more the cancer may come to realise that it has no future if it kills me. So far this approach has worked for 13 years!

    • What a brilliant response. I feel humbled. I am four years post treatment for a chondrosarcoma in my skull and the fear sits there. I met some fantastic people at clatterbridge last week who are getting on with their lives. Makes me sit back and think. Thank you.

  2. Quite a lot you have accomplished in two years. Let that beast sleep and perhaps whenever it does wake, the game will have changed a bit. You’re not done here yet. Love, Hope, and Positive Energy from St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

  3. Very moving, courageous, witty, humerous…’re kicking the C where it hurts in some ways and showing it the highest respect too! I admire you greatly !

  4. I read this and want to comment but am simply wordless, anything I want to write some how falls far short of the mark.

    Hope. This is the only word I can all I think of. Above all we must have hope. You must have hope and the love of a good man which we know you have x x

  5. God bless your hope and courage. Every day is a step into the future. My Dad managed to walk on for 15 years and saw his first grandchild.

    • Heck, sorry, one of problems of posting on net is that nuances missed. Kate your story is inspirational, been following via etc

      Your ‘dear cancer’ letter equally thought-provoking, especially on manner in which one dies.

      My question meant sincerely. As a medico we have knowledge and access that can facilitate our demise. I reckon most people have thought about it, although not made plans.

      So I am genuinely asking, has your knowledge of medicine helped shape decisions around end of life, rather than let the cancer decide?

      Tricky question, but one I’ve asked myself and discussed frankly with a medical friend who succumbed rapidly to a malignancy.

  6. Pingback: Dear Cancer… | Same Difference

  7. Quick and painless. Only way to go in my opinion. But cancer and happiness are strange bedfellows. You are now the third person I know to make the link. Is it the cancer that makes us happy? Or is it that cancer finally releases us to be the people we always wanted to be and we find happiness in that state of being? Fucked if I know but if the latter what does that say about everyone living without cancer?

    I hope you live long and pain free. I hope I live long and pain free. In fact I hope everyone everywhere lives long and pain free. But life holds no guarantees for anyone. Just stay happy for as long as you can. I will too. Love. J x

  8. Thank you, Kate, for your humanity and your human-ness, for being who you be and who you are becoming….you are SO loved….(please note the present tense; you will always be present…)

  9. Lovely letter. I can relate. My cancer has been aided to stay asleep with the advent of new easier to tolerate oral therapies. But there is no doubt about Cancer’s presence in my life. The daily pills. The side effects. The new “normal” that emerged to shape my new thoughts and life. It’s been almost 15 years now. The first 7 were spent in misery but a gentler version of Cancer has emerged and I am enjoying the kinder, happier, optimist self that I have become.
    Like you, I hope that when it reawakens, that it is quick. And I hope to access whatever help I can to help me transition to non-being without huge pain. As a doctor I expect you’ll have greater access to help which will be a blessing.
    Until then, enjoy that life you have. Most importantly, love and be loved.

  10. Hi Kate.
    Can I ask you how your husband is coping and does he have any help. We are on holiday for two weeks and where I am forgetting about cancer and chemo etc he is struggling. Too much time to think about the future etc. my email is I would appreciate a reply enormously. Either on your blog site or by email.
    Thanks xxxx

  11. Hello Kate,
    I really like the way you write and the clear description of your current situation almost like poetry. Today I had some free time at work(I am a board certified Family physician working at Kaiser permanente in California) diagnosed with GBM stage 4 very poor prognosis. I feel that I have been living a very similar experience if not the same. The difference is that after the brain biopsy my right arm has very poor motor function,which makes my days pretty hard ,but I love to practice medicine and I will continue until the end….Whenever that end comes. I am 42 and took me so many years, to challenge the USMLE boards after graduating from Mexico. Married to Trish trying to start a family ,but now like in your case some things are impossible to achieve. Although my way of practicing Medicine has not changed because I have always been very warm with my patients and I always have spent time with them and getting to know them well .But knowing that soon I won’t be able to do it saddens me. I am very fortunate and lucky like you ,my wife Trish has been extremely supportive. I have challenged so much in my life that I don’t think I can do much more or do something else than work.You are doing so much that it is contagious and I would like to do more. Unfortunately I don’t have a facebook or twitter account , e-mailing my patients keeps me very busy
    Thank You Kate for what you do
    Damian Vela
    If you guys want to read my biography just google Damian Vela,MD mypage Kaiser

    • Doc Kate & Doc Damian: you’re both a great source of inspiration, strength and belief that the human spirit will always prevail. I hope that you’ll just continue what you love doing- like that girl Talia who chose not to wallow in sadness and instead, kept ‘on swimming’ with the flow. You are touching a lot of lives with this dual doctor-patient role that you are balancing. I admire you so much! Take care and live, laugh, love!

      • Dear Kate,
        I love your post and I admire your courage and pray to god that he bestows the strength upon you to overcome this monster! I pray for a miracle for all of those battling with cancer on daily basis. God bless each and everyone of you and your families!

        With a heavy heart I wanna let you n the readers know that Dr.Damian lost his battle on Dec 31st 2013 😦 please pray for his family! Life is so mysterious in so many ways!! I will miss my friend dearly 😦 Very sad …RIP Damian

  12. Pingback: Dear Cancer… | drkategranger | All Things Palliative - Article Feed

  13. Hi Kate

    May your cancer stay a sleep, may you have many more happy days. With great admiration for all you do. Stay positive and witty and sending positive thoughts your way.

    MIchelle, Sussex, UK

  14. I found out in November 2012 that I had metastatic breast cancer to the lungs and skull. today I am in hospital and they have found more lesions on other bones and the liver. It has 9 been 23 years since I was diagnosed. I have been able with my husband to bring up our daughter up. you have remitted

  15. Sorry lost you software link halfway through. This is the rest. Reminded me how lucky I am. All good things to you Kate. I read your book first when I found out. Love To You

  16. Hi Dr Kate – you are inspiring many to relook at their lives – those of us who are well and those who are for now letting the cancer share their lives … but it is the partners/husband’s who suffer most … I admire you all – with many thoughts to all of you – Hilary

  17. I have only recently begun the journey with my uninvited guest that occupies my lungs. You inspire me and I hope that I can be as serene as you appear to be.

    Live long and pain free x

  18. What a truly moving account of a cancer journey you were an inspiration to write those so touching true words,it is good to be open about a disease it help others I found this out when both my parents died of cancer10 weeks apart a journey I will never forget and I continue it helping others asa volunteer in the local hospice and a cancer support group and cancer does change things dare I say it brings persons together.

  19. Go you!!! As a daughter who has just lost her mother at a young age to soft palate cancer I hope that your beat stays sleeping 🙂 good luck xxx

  20. hello Kate,
    honestly i have no words about your courage. this morning i read the news on stern/germany about your blog. your letter for the beast is the best answer we can give? everybody must face her/himself-you know that better than any not facing it yet. members in family suffer from very similar beasts and some died. i always asked/tried to understand how they could stand the pain, the fears, the hurting, the lost hopes, the …
    Your way of writing, your way of public is inspiring to face the drama.
    Thank You for this letter, yes it is the best answer for the beast, because it is honest.
    Best wishes from germany, Stefan

  21. I think we all wonder how we will die. I have worked in a hospice for the last ten years, and its a conversation we have often. If I can offer any advice… would be when you feel like taking to your bed, embrace midazolam, diamorphine and levomepromazine…..they are your friends!! Best of luck….death comes to us all eventually, you just have a little more idea of when.

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