Dealing with Cancer at close quarters is a gruelling experience. I am a great believer in the circle of life, you are are born and you live a life and in an ideal world you reach a ripe old age and then you die. Usually in the family a new baby comes into the world completing the family chain. Genetic material is passed down and the circle of life continues.
But as we know life has a habit of biting us on the arse! and Mother nature who doesn’t give a fuck about our finer feelings malfunctions and creates one deformed cell that’s whole genetic make up is designed to survive at all costs and reproduce as many replications of itself as it can and usually as quickly as possible.
It has no idea that it is deformed and in the wrong place! It has no idea that by recreating itself over and over it is in fact damaging the host it lives in and if it continues unabated it will in fact bring about its own demise. Survival and multiplication is all it is programmed for and so Cancer is born.
What causes the malfunctions remains a mystery in most cases. Where the changes take place however are a vital component of whether the medical profession can effect a cure or halt progression. There are over two hundred types of cancer to date and whilst research is coming up with new solutions all the time not everyone can be saved.
Such was the case with my Darling Daughter Katie, by the time symptoms occurred she was already at Stage 4. Her cancer Poorly Differentiated Diffuse Type Signet Ring Cell Adenocarcinoma of the Stomach is rare and effects mainly younger woman. Those little deformed cells sat in the distal region of her stomach creating a a group hug and giving her no symptoms. The odd bit of reflux (A family trait) but who doesn’t have indigestion from time to time.
Our bodies immune system sweeps up potential cancer threats all the time, usually recognising a developing alien by its differences. ‘Poorly Differentiated’ means just that it is so cleverly disguised that the immune systems is fooled into believing it is harmless and swims on by. In fact it is so clever that it gives off a signal saying just that. So the group hug just sits there getting a little bigger very slowly. BUT during this period the odd cell is shed and carried by the fluid that keeps everything in our Peritoneum nicely oiled drops into the space and lands in the lower portion of the stomach cavity by natural gravitation.
In Kate’s case it found a rich fertile bed in her ovary. Ovarian tissue is tailor made to develop cells and nurture them. By the time she started to have menstrual problems the mass of cells were the size of a football. Two visits in August 2019 to the GP despite examinations and checking the ovaries the GP said they seemed fine!!. The football was sitting on top of ovary and had the incompetent GP allowed Kate to complete her list of symptoms she may have realised that there was more going on than it appeared. But half way through her hand went up and she said (and I quote) “Your ten minutes are up you will need to make another appointment”! Kate was back two weeks later where an urgent scan was requested. But before this even got booked we decided to take action and went to A and E at Barnet General Hospital where we spent a long day waiting to be seen.
They did a blood test and didn’t like the look of it so followed it with a CT Scan and then we were taken to the quiet room where a Gynaecological Registrar who looked about twelve broke the news that Kate had an Ovarian mass and rather a large one. Kate was admitted and eventually switching over to the Private Sector surgery and diagnosis followed.
My anger at the GP’s incompetence remains high, the ten minute rule is a disgrace! Our usual Doctor had retired early because he liked to give everyone plenty of time and was being forced into the numbers game. I am without doubt with his experience and knowing his patient well he would have spotted the monster first time round. My only comfort is that our Oncologist reassured me the outcome would have been the same as the Ovarian mass was a Secondary. This automatically puts you at stage 4. Had we got the diagnosis four weeks earlier however it would have saved Kate a lot of pain and discomfort.
So despite all the best that science had to offer Our girl could not be saved. She battled bravely through nearly two years of treatment but sadly lost her battle on the 1st of September. While the family deals with its grief and loss we are trying to raise awareness of this Rare Cancer and ask everyone to demand more time from their GPs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and go in with a list. If you feel something is not right then shout it from the roof tops and don’t be fobbed off with “Your ten minutes is up”!
If you would like to help our cause and donate in Katie’s name please see the link below for Cancer Research UK. For more about Katie’s life please read the Eulogy I wrote for her funeral. Thank You, lots of love Gaynor xx
“IM NOT HAVING IT” A EULOGY FOR OUR KATIE
This is the one speech I hoped I’d never have to make, putting the life of a much-loved child into a few well-chosen paragraphs is no easy task. But like many things in life like the Cancer that took her from us it, just has to be endured.
So, I will begin to try and capture all that Kate was in this life and remind you all of the happy times we shared with her.
Katie Elizabeth Smith was born in the early hours of Thursday 28th April 1977 weighing in at 8lb 4ozs. It was a painful delivery and from day one she made her presence felt. With her thick head of auburn hair, she was undoubtedly going to live up to the fiery temperament associated with the red hair that was to become her fashion statement later in life.
Laura who preceded her sister by just eighteen months was soon showing her the way and couldn’t move without Kate by her side. Kate was a lively child and to keep up with her big sister she was up on her feet and walking by the time she was nine and a half months. If Laura asked to do anything a tiny voice behind her could be heard “and me”, she hated missing out on anything. She will be especially annoyed that she is missing out on this today.
Rory arrived seventeen months after Kate and before you ask yes, we did have a television. Also sporting the ginger hair, he was like a whirling dervish creating havoc everywhere he went and as a three some they were a formidable bunch. When school began woe betide anyone who picked on one of them. All three would gang up and protect the other.
School passed fairly quietly for Kate with the odd day of playing hooky egged on by her big sister. Kate was intelligent but clearly had a head for figures something she inherited from the Smith side of the family. But she lacked the arty streak that her siblings seemed blessed with. She was also tone deaf and could not sing a note. Her rendition of “I’m for ever blowing bubbles” was excruciating. And who could forget the family holidays in Devon with Nanny and Grandad when Nanny would insist on dressing all the cousins up and getting them to sing and dance while grandad wielded his cine camera (very badly I might add). Kate struggled not only with the dance moves but her baritone flat notes ruined every performance.
On one such holiday in Newquay Kate two years old toddled off on the beach and went missing for a good thirty minutes making us all frantic as we hunted high and low. All of a sudden, her head of red hair was spotted away in the distance peering up over the edge of a moored boat that she had managed to climb into and then couldn’t get out of.
Kate was plagued with tonsillitis, and it was from this she got her well known nick name Whiff! Her stubborn streak had already begun to show itself and when the doctors said that she needed them removed, on the day of the operation the nurse came to give her the pre-med and found Kate’s bed empty and she was nowhere to be found. She was eventually discovered locked in the toilet refusing to come out. It took us a lot of coaxing and time to get her out and she never did forgive me for making her walk home from the hospital after her operation. Money was in short supply back then.
Then we got into horse riding and from then on all our spare time was spent mucking about at the stables. Both Kate and Laura quickly got jobs working with the horses to earn some pocket money. Our own horse Guinness became a full-time job and we used to take turns in his care and riding in shows. Early one morning Kate in her Pyjamas went to muck out and feed tying Guinness by his stable as usual. All the other horses had been turned out in a field nearby for the grass Guinness being older by now had to wait his turn. He decided that he had enough of waiting and whilst Kate was in the stable, he broke free and started trotting off down the drive heading for the main road. Kate was frantic running after him rattling a feed bucket in hot pursuit as he headed into traffic. Her face matched her pink pyjamas as she ran up Clay hill crying down the phone hysterically to us. Guinness trotted up the hill managing to avoid all the morning skip lorries, and was waiting patiently at the gate whining at the Mares until Kate arrived to let him in. She never did forgive him!
Michelle was never far from Kate’s side, and they became firm friends and she often had the job of mediating between the two sisters who had been known to have the odd row. One night the three girls had gone drinking in Enfield Town. Around midnight a very hysterical Michelle phoned to tell me that the girls had had a disagreement and were rolling about fighting on the floor outside Browns the wine bar. Help was dispatched immediately.
Kate left school, with a handful of GCSE’s and I managed to get her a temp Job with Tibbett and Britten in the accounts department. Here things really took off and she soon realised a career in accounting was the way she wanted to go. The company paid for her study and she started evening classes for AAT working full time.
She studied hard getting through the exams and working her way up the ladder as she did so and landed a job working for DHL. Here she met one of her closest and most influential friends Jackie. With Jackie’s help she began her CIMA exams and when she was struggling to cope it was Jackie as her Mentor who kept her going until finally after many false starts, she passed the last one. We were all very proud.
When she became a big sister again to Jack who was born in 1991 she embraced her role helping with looking after him even changing his nappy on the odd occasion although she preferred the feeding end and later on she would love cooking for the giant as he is affectionately known. She took her role as Aunty very seriously too and was delighted when Matilda Isaac and Sophie arrived. I remember her saying one day as Sophie toddled past in little pigtails “I want one of those” which surprised me as her career had always come first.
Kate was very independent and at the first opportunity she moved out buying a flat in Henry Close where she spent many happy years as a singleton living next door to her good friend Lynda. The flat buzzed with many comings and going’s including The Celebrity Chef Jean Christof Novelle who came to cook a meal for Kate and Michelle in the tiny kitchen for a programme called Take on The Takeaway. (You can still find it on YouTube)
Kate embraced life on every front. She loved a beach holiday, and we had many raucous girls’ holidays to Puerto Banus! Now as much as I would love to share with you some of “the Shenanigans” we got up I have taken the pledge “What went on in Banus stays in Banus. I was just grateful to be considered part of the posse.
The summer months were filled with events Royal Ascot! Wimbledon! Festivals and she was famous for overspending on Pink Champagne in large quantities. We can’t even remember some of those “Shenanigans”.
She also loved cooking and was relied upon to cook the family roasts and run the barbecues. Christmas always a big event in our house was founded on the fact that despite drinking copious amounts of Champagne Kate could always be counted on to produce the most sumptuous Christmas dinner for 16 people. Kate as head Chef and Laura and me running around behind her whilst she barked orders at us with military precision. There was the one year when the Champagne got the better of her and her brothers had to put her to bed. Laura and I did the best we could skating about on dropped stuffing and roast potatoes and over cooking her vegetables. She was not best pleased.
But in our house the big event of Christmas Day was the Kitchen Dance as many of us as possible crammed in my tiny galley kitchen dancing whenever a certain song was played. Kate loved to throw some shapes when she wasn’t basting the turkey. The video of the carnage would do the rounds on Facebook with yearly regularity.
Despite a few relationships Kate was enjoying the single life until she started working at a Company called Carlisle in 2013 and met a young man called Gary. While putting their heads together over Forecasts and Spreadsheets they formed a bond and before long they became inseparable.
Love blossomed and Gary moved into Henry Close and things were progressing nicely. Gary and Kate both moved jobs. But with Kate’s biological clock ticking loudly it wasn’t too long before the subject of babies was top of the spreadsheets list. She was thrilled to bits when she found out she was pregnant with Chester who was born very dramatically on the 27th March 2017. Halfway through the labour bum in the air Kate suddenly threw her hands up in frustration and said loudly “That’s it I’ve had enough, I’m going home” and proceeded to try and climb off the bed. It was all Gary and I could do to keep her there. Stubborn till the last.
They set about finding a family home and Kate was happy with her life renovating their new house and looking after her “boys” She was a girl of many talents and could hang wallpaper like a professional. In fact, I was relying on Kate and Gary to build me a ‘Granny Annexe’ looks like you have the privilege now Laura!
Her new job at GoJumping was also going well so life was good until in September 2019 she started feeling unwell. Two visits to the GP didn’t sort out the problem so one Friday in October I took her to A n E at Barnet hospital where we spent the whole day. Eventually we got a CT scan and to our despair we were told she had an Ovarian Mass. She was admitted to hospital and after every conceivable test and eventually surgery we got the Cancer Diagnosis at the end of October.
She wanted to fight it and fight she did! Storming through 12 rounds of chemo like a trouper. She took every treatment on the chin suffering the pain of the ‘cold cap’ to prevent her losing all her hair. Her hair was her crowning glory and she said often and with gusto “I’m never going to be one of those women that wear one of those Bloody Head scarves that screamed to the world I am a cancer victim” She refused to give in and with her mantra of “I’m not having it” she battled on but sadly the disease did not get the message. She dealt with the cancer like she dealt with everything in her life forthright direct and head on. She so desperately wanted to live the life she had always wanted, looking after her boys her home and her job. She did not want to leave us and we did not want to lose her. Always the beating heart of our family, how we will survive without her I have no idea. But survive we must. She valued family and friends above everything else in her life. She knew she was much loved, and it is up to us to prove how much by keeping her memory alive and live every day like it is our last. And one thing you can be sure of is wherever she is she will NOT be wearing a bloody headscarf!
Missing you already our Darling Katie See you in the Stars.