A Toast For Kate

Unusually this post is not written by me, but I was so touched by it I wanted to share. It is written by the super talented poet Kate Fox… (@katefoxwriter)


A Toast For Kate
Everyone knows they’re going to die one day
but society tries hard to duck it
so we need stubborn truth-tellers who will sparkle and shout
before they kick the champagne bucket.
That is what you are –
an ordinary Yorkshire lass
let us toast your extraordinary story
and hold up a fizzing glass.
You are baffled when they call you brave
or inspiring or heroic,
you are carved from true Yorkshire grit,
like the phrase “Pragmatically stoic”.
But to inspire means to breathe in
and you inhale your life to the full,
determined to live for the moment
to avoid the flat or the dull.
You may not get the longest span 
but you fight hard for quality of life-
as a Doctor, author, fundraiser, friend,
colleague, daughter and wife.
You talk truth to cancer
write honestly to death
expire down to earth wisdom  
with every remaining breath.
Who would want a Doctor as a patient?
But you’ve turned it into something new
your Doctor and your patient
have learned and taught from a different view.
A dying Doctor still caring for others-
people say “I couldn’t do that, if it was me”
but if work can fire you up like yours does
why stay in and watch daytime T.V?
You have spread your message on paper
from the Other to the Bright Side
and your words multiply like dividing cells
and have now been heard far and wide.
On radio and telly and Twitter
urgent things on healthcare to say
and now thousands follow your journey 
and #Havejustcheckedkate every day.
#Hellomynameis has gone viral,
four words key to a whole way of being,
the patient at the very centre of care
an introduction, a new way of seeing.
An appreciation of how the little things
matter so much to a person in pain,
and the big things like being in control
and getting your life back again.
You hate being seen as weak
I’m not going to say that you are wrong
but sharing feelings of fear and shame
are another way in which you are strong.
Helping us accept that the end is inevitable
that living is doing more than simply survive
that some treatments cancel the benefits
of a few extra days being alive.
But showing there’s no perfect moment to leave
when there are so many bubbles left to drink
and so many stones still to skim over the sea,
so many new thoughts to think.
You still have words left to write
and people left to reach 
and trips in reality and imagination,
that happy place on a Shetland beach.
So many brownies still to bake, 
so many hugs to receive and to give,
so many sunsets still to enjoy,
at least ten other lives to live.
Your followers urge you on day by day
as you tick off your bucket list
but when somebody so alive is going to die
it’s hardly enough to say you’ll be missed.
More of us know your story than have met you
are not looking forward to the day when you’re gone
though we will have your words to go back to
and those hashtags will be living on.
We’ll continue having conversations you started
until we too run out of breath,
carers and patients living your legacies,
allowing others to have a Good Death
Everyone knows they’re going to die one day
but society tries hard to duck it
so we need stubborn truth-tellers who will sparkle and shout
before they kick the champagne bucket.
You are one of those-
an ordinary Yorkshire lass
I’m toasting your extraordinary story,
holding up a fizzing glass.

The call buzzer and me

“Just buzz if you need anything.” That is the all too familiar sentence from a nurse as they leave your room in hospital. You hear that instantly recognisable sound of the call bells almost engrained in the air when you walk on to a ward. (It is less apparent on a really well run ward in my experience.)

I have spent the equivalent of nearly four months of my life as an in-patient, yet I have probably only ever pressed my buzzer maybe five times.

Why my reluctance to ask for help?

Firstly I think it is intimately connected with my fierce independent spirit and desire to maintain this for as long as possible. By pressing a buzzer it somehow feels like I am giving in to the patient role together with its associated dependent state.

Secondly I fear the reaction of whoever answers it. When in doctor role I have observed nurses and HCAs reticent about the patient who buzzes all the time. I will always remember the first time I ever pressed my buzzer in hospital. It was a couple of days into my first admission to the Gynaecology Unit and I woke up with excruciating abdominal pain. I was in proper agony. The reaction I received from the staff nurse was one of indifference. I think this experience has conditioned me to be an infrequent buzzer.

Thirdly there is the uncertainty of who will answer your call. It might be a student nurse, it might be an HCA, it might be a Staff Nurse, it might be Sister. Some of the problems and complications my cancer causes are really embarrassing and the thought of having to repeat yourself as you go up the chain of command is horrid, in my mind anyway. I would much rather venture out to find the correct person who can sort out whatever the issue is.

Fourthly is my professional understanding of how busy nursing staff are. Even when I am in a side room I will usually have an awareness of what is happening on a ward. Perhaps there is a very sick patient or there are numerous admissions, which I will prioritise in my own mind as more important that me.

So my reluctance to press the big round orange button and ask for help gets me into a pickle sometimes. I have laid in a hospital bed crying in pain many times during the night because I don’t want to ask for help. I have also left other serious symptoms too long before telling anyone. I think sometimes I am just a bad patient. We all know doctors make the worst patients but sometimes I wonder if ‘lay’ patients share my feelings about the big orange button…