Dear Cancer Part 5

Dear Cancer,

I should wish you a merry Christmas and best wishes for the festive season. But as you’ve recently decided to wake from your slumber and cause no end of disruption to my life, I’m not sure I can find it within myself to wish you well.

I already knew what the images would show as I assumed the position, lying down with my arms above my head on the scan table, and felt that familiar warmness rushing through my body as the contrast was injected. The symptoms of abdominal distension with colicky pain and the distinctive fatigue that never resolves with sleep are such objective measures of your progression, I hardly needed the scan’s different shades of grey to tell me you were on the move.

What is it with you? Could you not face seeing me happy and contented professionally? I know you; you thought you’d wait until I’d settled into my new job then make your move; striking just before Christmas and forcing me to keep it from my family to avoid ruining everyone’s fun. I never thought I’d be able to be a Consultant. My Acting Up job is wonderful, immensely challenging but so fulfilling. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. And you’re going to steal it; seizing all my professional dreams and dumping them firmly in the bin.

And now I am faced with the arduous task of having to break the news of you to everyone. The pain etched in my poor Dad’s eyes as he struggled to hold back the tears was almost unbearably painful to watch. The break in my Mother-in-law’s voice as I imparted the terrible truth over the phone made my tears flow uncontrollably but silently.

Last time we were in correspondence I told you I had some things to do that you were not going to get in the way of. Well you I’m pleased to say you didn’t; I’ve cuddled my brand new niece many times and had the pleasure hearing my youngest nephew call me “Aunty Kate”; I’ve jumped out of a plane from 10,000 ft; I’ve somehow acquired two Fellowships; I’ve been taught how to make brioche by the wonderful Michel Rous Jr; we’ve continued to work hard with the fundraising for the YCC; I’ve spearheaded a campaign to improve patient experience across the world which has received so much positive recognition. Considering I should be dead by now it has been quite a year…

As is tradition I will conclude by wishing you a happy New Year. I am about to confront some of the most challenging decision making I have had to on this incredibly tough journey. I’m not sure how I will. Do I give the poisoning another shot? Or do I bow out gracefully now? Will treatment have an outcome that we will be satisfied with? How bearable will the toxicities be? Nobody can answer these questions for me and to coin one of my favourite phrases “no one has an accurate crystal ball”. 2015 is likely to be the year you finally get the better of me, but at least I can look back on a life well lived with a true purpose. I’m really scared so please be kind in the way that you decide to take my life.

Kind regards,

K x

100 thoughts on “Dear Cancer Part 5

  1. Dear Kate, so sorry to read your letter, hard to know what to say to you, only that we are all behind you and giving you our best wishes and thoughts. You are an amazing lady who has achieved such a lot already. lots of love to you and your family.

  2. Dear Dr Kate, you are truly an insperation, and an amazing lady, who has achieved so much whilst battling the enemy! I wish you and your family love and peace, and when the sad day comes, I pray you will go peacefully with your family by your side.
    God bless you Kate. Xxx

  3. Keep strong Kate, I think of you often. I found out on 18th my leiomyosarcoma was growing again….I already knew it was too, the pains and discomfort being exactly the same asy first diagnosis in December 2010. I too have to decide whether to face more chemo….I have two children 13 and 10,and I need to do what is best for them and I have yet to work out what that is…..I have yet to tell them what is going on….too many Christmases have been ruined by sarcoma and I wanted this to be a good one for them, and the 3 of us had an amazing day home alone on 25th, our best Christmas ever.

    You have achieved so much and continue to show it who is boss, you have to do what is right for you and only you can make that decision.

    With love, and some idea of what you are facing,

    Suzy xx

  4. Dear Kate
    I am twice your age and not in your position, though my husband died of pancreatic cancer. You and I have never met. Your blogs, especially this one, move me deeply. I salute your humanity with its fears, its courage and its love. Thank you for your achievements, especially those for patients. My love and blessings to you for 2015. If the year or the following one or the one after that, brings an end to your life, as you predict, may that process be grace-full and may your family, your friends and your doctors and nurses be upheld in their support of you.
    I feel the richer for having been allowed to eavesdrop on your process.
    Thank you.
    with my love and bright blessings
    Frances

  5. Oh Kate, Kate, Kate! You dropped recent hints that you knew the enemy was stirring but it is still hard to have it confirmed. You are amazing! I enjoy your updates so much and am in awe of your daily accomplishments. It is frustrating and unfair that such a productive life is being cut so short. I have never met you but think of you often and send best wishes from the U.S to you and those you love.
    May 2015 be kind and gentle to you all.
    -Iris

  6. Dear Kate,
    I am in the same beastly boat but with just a couple of months left. I don’t have your courage but admire it so much. Keep remembering all that you have achieved and the difference you have made to hospital care. Nothing can take that away.
    Best wishes, JS

    • I just want to say, Jane, you have faced your illness straight on and continue daily as a champion. Treatment options are very difficult. When you have reached your end of treatments, don’t hesitate to contact hospice early enough to allow them to assist you in your finally days and months. They are as skilled as the aggressive physicians and teams that you trusted yourself to in the beginning. Now all is lost, have strength to do this finally task. Blessing on you and your family members.
      Susan Marshall, RN, CHPN, BSN

  7. I really don’t know what to say and j have never read your blog before- I coukdny just read and run though. I am so sorry you’re going through this and I hope you find the strength to fight as long as possible x x

  8. Kate thank you for this blog, I wish you all the best for 2015 I know you will be making some difficult decisions but you will know when is the right time. A nne x

  9. Oh Kate, I’m so very sorry for you and your wonderful family. You are nothing but amazing. You inspire me in my own journey with cancer. I send you so much love and respect.
    Every blessing, Sandra Lloyd. Xx

  10. It’s just so bloody unfair. Thinking of you, and your family, as you face your next challenges, in whatever way is good for you.

  11. Dear Kate
    What can I, or anyone else, say that will make everything easier for you. I’ve followed your story for so long & have been absolutely ‘blown away’ by your courage & dignity along with your fantastic professional achievements. You have just written, so eloquently, words that none of us wanted to hear. I have read & re read this latest blog in tears, wanting to reply but not knowing what to write. I still don’t, but couldn’t read & run.
    You are truly inspirational & know that you are loved, not only by your dearest, but by so many whose lives you have touched.
    Sending you hugs
    God bless you Kate. x

  12. Kate
    Everything you write everything you share touches my heart , touches everyone’s heart And more than that – you have gone out there and spread the word so that the rest of us can have dignity in treatment. Can not thank you enough. Simply do not have the words to do so. Want to say stay brave but really you have shown more courage than many of us can muster. You are inspirational in the true sense and I thank you.

    Susannah

  13. Yes, giving it a name and a few personality traits is good. Heaven knows, it takes enough control without a by-your-leave so it only seems right to wrest a bit back. I was one of those privileged to shake your hand at one of your two Fellowship ceremonies – I shake it again now, gently, in saying you are already doing the right thing… naming, confronting, sharing, choosing and celebrating. Well done. Thank you for your words, your courage, your spirit. You have made the world a better place. That surely comes at or near the top of any priority list.
    Your friend and colleague,

    John

  14. Kate, even if it were to kill you, cancer will never have beaten you. Respect! And thanks too, from an elderly cancer patient.

  15. Kate, I am full of admiration for your strength, courage – and wit. I love your #mynameis campaign, it is making a difference to patients.

    I can’t stand being given platitudes myself, so I will say I am so sorry about your news, and send you and your family so much love. I am thinking of you xxxx

  16. Dear Kate….I wish I could just wave a magic wand and you all better…but I can’t….but you must know how much admiration and support there is from all over the world for you…you HAVE made a difference, which is more than many of us can say….God bless you and give you strength and courage…zdena

  17. God bless you Kate. I read this with a lump in my throat and with tears in my eyes. You and only you can decide what you now do but with the love of Chris and your family and friends it will be the right decision for you. A very noble and selfless decision to spare your loved ones heartache at this festive time sums you up. Take care

  18. You are an inspiration, a tough cookie and a brilliant maker of brioche. That makes you very special. Keep going as long as you can but love yourself too.
    Elaine
    x

  19. Dear Kate
    As you say no one has a crystal ball but please continue to fight this if you feel you can – your simple message #hellomynameis has become our mantra now in educating the next healthcare professionals your legacy will go on 🙏 you are as many here say inspirational

  20. Dear Kate, so sad to read this. I’ve followed your experiences for a long time now and have been so inspired by your courage and achievements. Keep plugging away, so many of us are rooting for you. Lots of love Penny xx

  21. So, so sorry. You have the strength to decide, just listen to all the advice. Whatever you do, know that you have achieved miracles in the few years you have been at work. Praying for you as always. Kx

  22. Thank you Kate for sharing such an eloquent letter representing the joys and challenges you continue to face. Sharing your story is greatly appreciated and allows us as readers to be a part of your journey.
    Sending peace your way.
    Sara

  23. Kate, I have worked as a nurse for 33 years in the NHS and rarely have met such an inspiration as you. The words I offer in return to yours are a feeble attempt at primary school writing in comparison to your scholastic literature. You have taught me so much in the time I have been following you. Cancer certainly does not define you, however humilty, compassion, bravery and hope do. I am currently Director of Nursing at a large mental health Trust in Birmingham. I am an RGN rather than an RMN and in my presentation at interview I used your story and the need to continue to always deliver compassionate and personal care. We shall be signing up to #hellomynameis early in the New Year and I will remain as I always have done focussed on ensuring all of our staff are delivering care with compassion and kindness to our patients and their carers. Thank you Kate for sharing with us what must surely be the most painful times and know that in doing this your legacy is built and will continue long after we have all moved on. If perchance we get to meet then the cupcakes are on me!
    Lot of love and positive thoughts
    Sue (miss trunchbull) x x x

  24. You’ve become a part of us. We will sustain your courage through our pride in you, following you, celebrating you. Thank you KATE!!! We’re holding your hand, listening to your words, embracing you. You’ve given us all so very much. With all the love there is, from all of us. Warm wishes for the new year. We’re with you.

  25. kick ass, kate! i don’t know if i’ll ever even get into med school, much less, beyond, but if i do – know that i will recall your strength and spirit each day as a tenet of my practice, and of how i conduct myself in the face of adversity. thank you so much for kicking ass as you navigate the nightmare.
    love and peace,
    s

  26. Many blessings to you Kate for your courage & inspiration to so many. Your blog has given me a glimpse of what it must have been like for my husband as he coped with cancer & it has helped me come to terms with it. May you be held firm in the love of your family, friends & we who read your blog. With respect and admiration.
    Sarah S

  27. Your blogs never cease yo move me. This one even more so. Your drive and courage, and your determination to squeeze every damn drop out of life is inspirational. God bless you lovely lady.

  28. I have just seen that you have been awarded an MBE in the New Year’sHonours list – truly well deserved. I am so glad you are enjoying your acting up post
    Jean C

  29. Congratulations Kate on your MBE in the Honours list – I am delighted for you, it is very well deserved. You have done more to change thinking in Medical Education than many who have spent decades trying to. I hope you celebrate loud and long with your family and that your cancer gets the message and slinks back from whence it came – permanently. Have a very happy and very healthy New Year and thank you for all you have done and continue to do to help us all become better doctors.

  30. Dear Kate you’re such a bright light in at times a cruel world you are an amazing human who gives everything and how you do what you do is unbelievable

  31. Dear Kate
    I find it a humbling experience to read and share your journey, thank you.You are so brave and have achieved so much focussing on the best interests of patients. I hope and pray that you can continue your work. I hope that you received my book. All the best to you, your relatives and friends. Maureen xx

  32. Dr Granger MBE,
    Kate,
    Hello, My name is Simon,

    Like a lot of people I first heard of your illness when your appeared in the Times newspaper. Like your other 35,000 followers I’ve been moved, cheered up, jealous and made hungry by your twitter posts since.

    I think your a genuinely inspirational, brave, interesting and fun person. If the opportunity presents it’s self i’d like to stand you a drink, or if that does take your fancy I knock out a reasonable cherry scone.

    It’s shitty news that your cancer is back. Good luck with whatever treatment plan you choose.

    Yours in admiration,

    • Now a good cherry scone is hard to find so I suggest all 35000 of Kate’s followers come round to yours . . . . . . . . . .

  33. Kate,

    I like you am in a similar situation albeit mine I believe and hope is still in a dormant state. I know that this will not always be the case and that sooner or (hopefully later) it will make an unwelcome reappearance. The treatments on offer seem little different to the symptoms themselves and so reluctantly I wait.

    Since diagnosis I like many in a similar position have re evaluated my life and the relayionships I have. I have searched my spirituality and purpose and have to say have gained great comfort in understanding. I was initially as frightened as you and it did take a while before I was able to shake off the fear that we naturally all go through in this state.

    One thing I have gained more than anything is to value today. For most of my life I was focused on career and building for the future. I think like many, I lost sight of the true value of life. I value my relationships much more whether is be family or friends. I even have an understanding of those who I don’t or cannot relate to. It’s not been easy but realising we all have to go through this process at some stage in our lives it brought into focuss the whole reason for not only my life but others around me.

    Whatever time I have left I hope that I can make the most of each day and take pleasure from the love I share with those around me. I hope and pray that you gain the strength over the next few months to do the same.

    God Bless you and your family. My thoughts are with you.

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