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April 9, 2013 / Kate Gross

Glum Girl

Hello from super-size me land. I’m pleased to report a very successful operation: I now have 20 percent less liver than I did a month ago. Inside that twenty percent lurked at least 6 tumours, nuked by the chemo but undead, like little cancerous zombies waiting to do me in when my back was turned. Having had the operation gives me a coins-toss chance of a complete cure from the Nuisance, odds I never really thought possible 6 months ago. So I write to share good news. Really, the best news I could hope to bring you right now. And yet, and yet, for some reason I am glum, and I write to share that too.

Glum because I went into the Operating Room One person and seemed to come out quite another. Those foul foxes sucked all the strength out of me and this operation was no cakewalk. I’m not the same person who was running on beaches 48 hours before having the Nuisance chopped out of her bottom bits last October. I’m a weaker, frailer, tireder person. A bit of an old crone really. So the operation brought pain. Real, screamy, sweary pain like I had never had before. Crazy drugs which gave me hallucinations and made me shout at the doctors (poor, embarrassed Billy). Infection which took me back into hospital 2 days after I’d got out. And with all this physical stuff came a mental dislocation from myself, which I find more disconcerting than anything. Can’t talk. Can’t read. Can’t watch tv. Can’t write. At its very worst the pain seems to form a barrier between me and the world so I look at my boys and they seem so far away that I can’t possibly be their mummy properly ever again.

Glum, also, because of Houston. Sorry, Texas, but I’m just not feeling it. What an ingrate I am. The weather rocks! I’ve had truly world class care from some of the nicest, most impressive medics I’ve ever met. I like them, I’d trust them with my life again any day. In my private room I didn’t have to cope with the sadness of expectorating geriatrics on top of everything else. I like guacamole and TexMex food. Here was a damn good choice. But when it comes down to it, there is no place like home and Houston ain’t it. I don’t miss our endless winter but I do miss 47 Ross st. A restorative walk round the Backs. Familiar faces popping in to see me. And since Billy and the boys decamped home on Friday, them. More than anything. How lucky I have been to have my whole family here for so long to cheer me and steer me through the worst of it.

And I suspect glum, really, because I don’t know what happens next. In a literal sense, the path is clear. I come home, have another 3 months of chemo and then go on an awesome summer holiday. But what then? What has the Nuisance got up its sleeve next? Dead as a Dodo or just sleeping for a while? Now that there is a real possibility of life without the Nuisance I am suddenly more scared than I ever was before of it. I think because the last few months have really shown me about illness. I get it now. I have a healthy fear of what it does, and most of all how it stops you from being you. Frankly, I don’t know how we all manage to live with this shadow beside us all the time, because it will happen to all of us soon enough. I wonder if perhaps I am turning into Philip Larkin? This gloomy me is not the person I am used to being. But I trust that PollyAnna will return, somewhere between the 59th Freeway North and Cambridgeshire, or when my right shoulder straightens up and I lose my wizened crone walk, or perhaps when I finish this blog and decide my brain isn’t under anaesthetic any more. Or when I realise that I am back to normal because all I want to do is devour Thatcher obituaries and articles about her handbags (really, there is no denying she was a stylish dame). Or when I finish the ubiquitous and yet super exciting thriller sent by Cruffy to pass my time here. Or when I walk arm in arm with my parents under the shade of Texan Live Oaks and feel connected to them, nature and the world again. Or when I have a cuddle with my boys and feel the reassuring blanket of home cover me and remind me that whatever happens, all will be well, and all will be well, and all will be well. Because though I can lose myself to pain and grey for a while, I know I will be back, and you will all be there.


Leave a Comment
  1. Anne Marie Gibson / Apr 9 2013 1:30 am

    Dear Kate what a blog the tears wont stop so I will be a glum girl with you. Never a truer saying than
    THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME, Here’s to the reassuring blanket of home and your 3 boys to help you heal the glum. Safe journey home lots of love Anne Marie xx and we will all be there.

  2. sophiesargeant / Apr 9 2013 1:42 am

    Just emailed your agi address. Do you pick these up or do you have a personal email I could fwd to? X

  3. sophiesargeant / Apr 9 2013 1:52 am

    Sent an email to your agi account but not sure if you’re picking these up. If not, do you have a personal account I could fwd to? X

  4. Ayersy / Apr 9 2013 8:01 am

    Dear Kate,

    It is great to hear from you again since the op took place.
    Above all, it is simply brilliant to hear that the operation was so successful in its aims.
    But what an incredibly hard time it must have been. A
    nd your post suggests it’s brought a time of reflection on just how defining and traumatic the past 7 months have been as a whole.
    I remember after my brain surgery in August, as well as the exhaustion and the confusion from anaesthetic and painkillers, I just felt like I’d been in a boxing ring with a heavyweight champion for 12 rounds. I felt smashed in, with drains coming out of my head and metal clips around my scalp that seemed to be holding everything together.

    You say, “Frankly, I don’t know how we all manage to live with this shadow beside us all the time, because it will happen to all of us soon enough.”
    For a different perspective on this from somebody who has faced it all as seriously as you have, I’ve been recommended this book and am passing on the recommendation, to you and to those who read your blog post comments:
    “Dying – the greatest adventure of my life” by James and Peter Casson.
    It seems to have gone out of print, but is available 2nd hand here:

    Thinking of you all, and hoping you’re back together as a family soon.

  5. Tracey Lattimore / Apr 9 2013 8:53 am

    Lovely Kate,

    As much as I hate to read of your illness, I am compelled to read your blog and often check to see if you have posted something (even though I get a notification when you have). Reading of your survival through the darkest times is hard but inspirational. But how lovely to have your gorgeous family all waiting for you when you return home, hoping that won’t be too long.

    We are looking forward to seeing you when you feel a bit stronger, you have the whole summer ahead of you now to look forward to, so hopefully we can meet up and enjoy a picnic or something.

    Lots of love, thinking about you.

    Tracey xxx

  6. Polly C-H / Apr 9 2013 11:50 am

    Sending you lots of love. Have also sent an email to your agi account. xxx

  7. Martin / Apr 9 2013 7:18 pm

    Dear Kate
    You are great. Just leave the nasty bits behind in Texas…. and enjoy an English spring. You and family really deserve it and the weather here is improving. Honest!

  8. Sasha Howard / Apr 10 2013 9:13 pm

    Lovely Kate, give yourself time – time, which will heal your bruised body and although will not heal all wounds physical or mental will lend perspective. You will no doubt never quite be the same again after the op, but the lighter-liver Kate will certainly enjoy life with gusto again, and appreciate it so much. And we all appreciate you so much. Allow yourself the rollercoaster’s downs as well as highs – it is so normal to feel glum at this point. You’ll come back up again, and the sun here is peeping out just in time. Much love x

  9. Anthony Measures / Apr 12 2013 11:02 am

    Dear Kate,
    It is great to hear from you since your operation, Helen and I having been thinking about you a lot. I am so plaesed that it went well. I am sorry that it has left you feeling like you are, but I know that as soon as you see your boys they will make you smile with their happy faces and never ending enthusiasm – as boys of that age have.

    We are still thinkig about you and wish you well in your continued recovery from the operation.
    Lots of love,
    Anthony, Helen, George (and bump)

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