My friend Kate

Posted May 10th, 2009 by Jane

I met Kate in cancercyberland 4 years ago, in realworld regularly for two years. I went to her funeral on Thursday; a packed crematorium of mourners; Kate was 47, her twins 12, her younger son 8.

Kate’s breast cancer story is not one of those cheery pink accounts beloved of magazine editors in October. Diagnosed in April 2005 she had barely finished primary treatment when her cancer spread first to her skin, then subsequently to her lungs, liver and bones and various other parts of her lymphatic system. She had tumours wrapped round her oesophagus and her aorta. She was on continual chemotherapy for most of the four years.

Kate was deeply loved in breastcancer cyberland…she wrote thousands of words on her blog, on Facebook, in the Breast Cancer Care on-line forums, and on a private forum- bcpals. She was one of those incredibly busy, organised people, a mother working full time, lots of fingers in many social pies. She was often really unwell during the last 18 months of her life, but she simply just kept going: endless trips to hospital punctuated by last holidays to Disneyland. She had a physical stoicism and determination which held me in awe. For some of the time we were on the same chemotherapies and compared notes…she was packing the kids camping equipment as I lay fatigued in bed..and she still had time to send me texts and e-mails.

When we met we talked about death and about dying; dark laughter about what the ‘emissions’ are which fall from your body at death. She was scared. I am scared. Just acknowledging this helps.

Like me, Kate was an ‘information seeker’ about breast cancer and I guess thats what drew us together as friends. She was under no illusions about the nature of her cancer, nor unrealistic expectations of what the treatments might achieve. She did what I try to do : held the reality of her sooner than later inevitable death in her hands at the same time as finding hope that she could meet important milestones. It was enormously important to her that she did, after all, see her twins to secondary school last September.

There have been a lot of deaths in breastcancercyberworld recently and there’s an air of great sadness, frustration and anger. To many of us left, there feels such an enormous gulf between the glamarous media representations of breast cancer and the nasty reality of living and dying of this disease. “We are dying for a cure” someone wrote in a forum recently and yes we are…12,000 women this year in the UK alone.

I will miss you Kate.