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June 5, 2014 / Kate Gross

But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near

There was a point just before Christmas when I wasn’t sure I would get to see the Magnolias come out this year. They came early, and I caressed their waxy petals like talismans. Since then, everything has gone too fast. The garden is overflowing, rain, sunshine and a mild winter has brought everything out in hyper-speed. The tulips were red and luxuriant, destroyed too quickly by exuberant games of football. The clematis, always a reminder of the mid-May birth of the Knights, came and went in a week. Now the tall, purple alliums are over, and the peonies are fatly spilling over the bright green astroturf. I want to press pause on the garden, the spring, the summer and everything that comes with it. Not just because I am scared I might not see it again (though that I am), but because I want to bathe in its beauty, revel in how good it feels to be part of it.

This point; between Easter and Midsummers’ day – is my favourite time of the whole year. And this year, it has tasted especially sweet.

I walked through Legoland on the Knight’s birthday, soaked to the skin from freezing rain and a drenching from Pirate Falls. I was holding my lovely niece’s hand as we ran damply to the Star Wars exhibit, the rest of family ahead and behind. Happiness ran through me like electricity. Here I was, holding the hand of a dear blonde girl who can’t get enough of talking to (at) me, surrounded by family I love, in a place which makes us all oddly happy. I was there to watch my boys turn five, and not just there, palely suffering, but really THERE.

In Dorset I swam in the sea with my Best Woman and her mother. It was early evening, bright sunshine and cold, cold sea. We walked back across the sand to see Ian, Billy and four delighted boys nestling in the sand dunes, their faces smeared with ketchup and the chocolatey-marshmallow of Tunnock’s Tea Cakes. Earlier that day, alongside my parents and our exuberant puppy-dogs, I walked more miles than I have since conquering the Mourne Mountains last Autumn.

I have rocked my work wardrobe and once again been to meetings in the shadow of Westminster Abbey. Who would have thought I would miss the cut and thrust around a plastic table so much? I won’t ever be Executive Gross again but my brain still seems agile and seeks action.

I have found a lovely home for my book. It looks like it will actually be published next year (with or without the author hawking it around Waterstones like she’s JK Rowling). Writing is my therapy, my solace and my indulgence, fuelled by secret stashes of Macaroons and Crunchie bars. How could I not love spending an afternoon high on sugar writing to my boys and all of you?

Last weekend, Billy, the Knights and I went Glamping. My first tent experience in 15 years. Oscar was concerned about this decision: Why can’t we stay at home? What if there are spiders? Well, there were spiders. And a certain dampness to the tent walls. And a dawn chorus of birds and sheep at 3am. But how good it was for us all to live outside for 48 hours; how good it was for me to watch the Knights make friends with a trio of big girls, to attempt to fly our kite in the huge East Anglian skies, to bury one another in the sands of Wells’ beach, to eat honeycomb ice cream.

This is all to say, life is good. More than good, it is blissful. But I know this interregnum won’t last. My tumour markers have started to bob up and down again, I fear mainly up. This is probably a sign that the merciless Nuisance is becoming resistant to the chemotherapy. Funnily enough, I have been expecting this for the last month. I’ve felt the winged chariot at my back. There have been too many single magpies at the side of the road to salute. I feel my luck running out.

So the next stage in this journey begins. More scans next week. Then some doctor time. I don’t know what will happen. Maybe a return to my old friends, the Foxes, to see if they still have any Nuisance-crushing powers left. Maybe straight into the uncertain territory of clinical trials. I don’t know what I dread more; horrible foxy toxins or the journey into the unknown of experimental treatments, where the silver bullet seems just around the corner for every other cancer than mine.

So, my sojourn in technicolour Oz is over, and the precipice looms again. I know this path. There are no sign posts to direct us, nothing that can stop me hurtling downward if that is what the Nuisance decides. But like Will and Lyra’s journey to the underworld in The Amber Spyglass, I don’t travel alone. Billy and I walk hand in hand, and we are surrounded by love and loved ones who keep us striding purposefully along. Despite the Magpies, I won’t stop making life happen all around us. There will be a party to celebrate my 36th Birthday. There will be HOLIDAYS with sun to sit in and blue swimming pools to swim in. The Oiseaux and I are planning a Parisian jaunt. I’ve just been given some GORGEOUS gold Jimmy Choo shoes. There is always something to rejoice in. So though I think it’s probably a touch inappropriate for a family blog, I shall end with Andrew Marvell’s risqué rebuke to time:

Let us roll all our strength and all

Our sweetness up into one ball,

And tear our pleasures with rough strife

Thorough the iron gates of life:

Thus, though we cannot make our sun

Stand still, yet we will make him run.











Leave a Comment
  1. Katherine Bunke / Jun 5 2014 5:42 pm

    Was looking for a new post from you today and was wondering how you’re doing. Great to read about all the adventures you and the family have been having. Keep strong!

  2. bananagiraffes / Jun 5 2014 6:06 pm

    Just beautiful and so rich with every emotion. I am willing you on from one stage 4 albeit in remission again, to another. You are teaching and reminding us all how to live. Thank you.

  3. Susanna Davidson / Jun 5 2014 7:26 pm

    Kate – everytime I read your beautiful words you bring a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. Long may the bloody nuisance be held at bay and you get to enjoy more beaches and sticky inquisitive boys. Sam is also 5 and it all resonates. You write beautifully and I look forward to reading your book. X

  4. Mike Renton / Jun 5 2014 7:59 pm

    Thank you so much for including us.

    With love from us both

    Mike and Linda


  5. Melanie Howes / Jun 5 2014 8:01 pm

    Kate this is so beautifully written, a real lesson in taking time to soak in what we see, think and feel, thank you for sharing. I pray you have many more summer adventures to rejoice in xx

  6. Mairead Byrne / Jun 5 2014 11:18 pm

    Was just thinking of you and hoping that one of your lovely emails would arrive soon.really glad to hear of the trips that you guys are enjoying together-you describe them so well.i won’t patronise you by saying anything trite -will simply wish you well and send you positive thoughts.Mairead xx

  7. Patrick Raleigh / Jun 5 2014 11:54 pm

    Beautiful as always. Very glad to hear you have found a publisher, as your writing fully deserves it.

  8. Elizabeth Walmsley / Jun 6 2014 10:52 am

    Dear Kate
    It is a long time since I have seen you in your ‘rocky’ business wardrobe in Berkeley Square.
    I have followed your blogs with great love. I have wanted to be the alchemist who could transform your nuisance or the magic rabbit who followed the foxes down their tunnels to guide their trail. I have followed your poetic writing with delight at your creative use of language.
    Sending you my best wishes for your summer. I will now dig out my Dark Materials and become another character alongside you.
    If you have a chance – drop me a line or let me know if I can call you.
    With much love
    Liz W
    07810 756489
    01642 701348

  9. Jean Gross / Jun 6 2014 7:00 pm

    What I’ve learned from lovely Kate is that it takes dying, perhaps, to teach one how to live. And it’s not the big things – not the bucket list – just peonies and having fun with friends and family. And possibly golden shoes from Jimmy Choo. All of us out there not dying (yet) can maybe have a go at the friends and family bit too? Re birthday – I have a list of things she’d like from close friends so email me (Kate’s mum) on, for ideas.

  10. Ruth / Jun 18 2014 3:17 pm

    I too am living with the anguish of terminal bowel cancer, and again being young have a scarily similar experience to you. I am so pleased you are still getting to go out and do things. I have currently moved into my local hospice to give my family a break and to embrace the fact that my health has taken a serious downturn over the last month 😦

  11. Kate Gross / Jun 18 2014 7:53 pm

    Ruth – I hope your hospice is as nice as the one I have visited with my final months in mind. I hope the pain is now being managed. I hope your three gorgeous children are getting to spend some time with mummy. And I hope you can keep your chin up. Much love and all that – Kate x

  12. Sue / Jun 21 2014 7:52 am

    Dear Kate, I love your writing and was so pleased to see news of your prestigious honour. I wish you and Billy and your knights many, many happy days. With best wishes and love from a fellow Cambridge resident xx

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