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November 18, 2014 / Kate Gross

My latest accessory, and other news

I have been putting off writing this mainly on the basis that I hoped to have generated more witty and hilarious tales about my must-have new autumn accessory (AbdoBum™) to horrify and entertain you with. But the old Wing’d Chariot keeps beating relentlessly at my back and it seems my new abdominal friend has become old news, so I’d better get on with a medical update.

Chemotherapy has been brutal for me, as it is for everyone. But 20 cycles of the Foxes have given me an extended golden period, 10 months of it – time to see the crocuses, tulips, clematis, and now the leaves turning again from golden to red and the mists come down. I had my perfect summer. I’ve finished my book. And I always knew the time eked out through chemo was limited. We lived under a wary, fragile truce. The eventual winner was always clear: chemo works by nuking cancer cells. It gets what it can, but it doesn’t get everything. The strongest, wiliest and most devastating Nuisance-proliferating cells survive. And eventually, they are all that is left, their weaker brethren defeated. A new Nuisance Master race has been born, out of the basic Darwinian laws of evolution. It seems that my own Nuisance cells have now reached this critical mass. The chemo isn’t containing them anymore; instead they are reproducing wildly in my liver, colon, bones and even my lungs. In some ways I am unsurprised and perhaps even a little proud of their intense productivity. Of course my cancer cells were always going to be highly-efficient little multi-taskers, reaching for the oncological stars, breaking records. How could they not be over-achievers? They are part of me, after all.

So, since I came back from my summer holidays, I’ve been in more and more pain in more and more places. I’ve spent far too long in hospital. I’ve been operated on. During all that, the little blighters have been leaning in big time, working around the clock to maximise their efficacy; so much so that chemo is now redundant and we are into new and unchartered waters. There isn’t another option up the Doctors’ sleeve, my chemotherapy days are pretty much exhausted. Instead, there are these things called clinical trials. The sort I am looking at would pump as yet completely untested drugs into me to see if they just might slow the Nuisance’s inexorable growth like some kind of a Christmas miracle. Let’s be clear, the chances of one of these new drugs hitting the bull’s eye are very, very slim. It is more likely that we are in end game now. This might be the moment I fall apart. But I hope not; I hope to hold it together. I’m shooting for my usual mix of dignity, elegance and hilarious wit. Watch this space.

Because you are well schooled in the ways of the Spiral, and because you are all dear, dear people, you will want to know what you can do to help as we move into this strange new territory. The truth is, for the moment we are keeping things tight. I’m being well entertained by Billy, the boys, my family and the best women. That is all I need – other than the thud of post arriving on the mat, the opening of a crisp envelope, and sitting in the warm glow of your words. Keep writing, please. It really does help. You have probably noticed the replies drying up: sorry about that. It doesn’t mean I love you any the less, just that I am feeling rather beyond chit chat and thank-yous. The flowers and other reminders of our beautiful wild world which you send are much appreciated, too. Hold back on the sweeties, because I’m not allowed to eat very much but might be driven into a sugar-frenzy if too many Crunchie bars were within my eyesight. If you want guidance on what to say, do or send you could do worse than ask the advice of my Oiseaux who are, as ever, encircling me in luxury goods, directional lounge wear and plastic divertissements for the boys.

And remember, there is always someone else in the spiral who needs support, probably much more than me.

What else? Well, my book is coming out in January. It’s called Late Fragments and IT IS ON AMAZON AND IT HAS MY WORDS IN ACTUAL PRINT. Soon I will transform my blog into a whirl of promotional activity, which will be dead classy and not feature any pictures of me looking wistful in headscarves. Because it isn’t that sort of book. You might stumble across me in print before then – I’m writing a bit for the Times, some little articles for which we had to do family photo-shoots which Isaac worked like a Kardashian and Oscar sulked through. And now I’ve finished the book… back to the blog, I promise.

I have to end with the AbdoBum, to reward those of you who have soldiered on, desperate to know what Autumn trend I am working. All the pain and sickness I’d been having revealed that my digestive system was basically unable to cope with the spreading Nuisance. We were on the brink of a major plumbing failure. So, I had a little operation to give me a colostomy, which Jenny has christened the AbdoBum, and Katy names my TummyRose. Needless to say the boys are fascinated by my new super-power of pooing from my stomach. I am oddly mesmerised by the medieval disembowelment I have been subjected to (that is quite literally what it is and looks like). Billy has not been permitted to view the thing yet. I am busily racking up a store of what social media would call FML moments to regale you with (nadir thus far: colostomy bag leaking poo en route to school, Oscar vomiting on the street at the sight, new sheepskin coat ruined). I’m pretty sure there is a hashtag for that somewhere…


Leave a Comment
  1. Susan Robinson - Pete's mum and Emma's MIL / Nov 18 2014 3:41 pm

    Pressing the ‘like’ button seems wholly inadequate and inappropriate so please just accept a thank you for sharing. Your writing touches me and makes me so grateful for all sorts of things. Sending loving thoughts right through the spiral.

  2. Jenny / Nov 18 2014 3:58 pm

    I am actually going to just put the words TERRIBLE COLOSTOMY MISHAP here, in the hope that some future AbdoBum newbie googling will find this, and feel less alone. Xxx

  3. shelley goldman / Nov 18 2014 4:08 pm

    Can’t wait to read your book, then the movie ….

    and I am crossing my fingers and toes that something from the clinical trials works for you …..

    and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we get to meet in person …. I live in Tel Aviv … and I’m 62 – old enough to know that medical miracles can and do happen!

    Love & Hugs

    Shelley Goldman

  4. Jean Gross / Nov 18 2014 4:27 pm

    Kate’s Mum here – a message to all you very kind people who were on the previous flower rota , Kate’s friend Emma is doing a new one. Contact me if you haven’t got Emma’s email address. Thank you!

    • Donna / Nov 18 2014 6:57 pm

      I have never met Kate and all of her lovely family. I have been reading her blog for months. I don’t know if I can be of any support – flowers , cards, anything!

      Please do get in touch if I can be of any help at all

      Donna xx

  5. emma / Nov 18 2014 5:38 pm

    Yes, please do contact me if you want to send flowers, or want some other ideas. Trying to make sure that Ross St has a good, regular supply of flowers but to avoid running out of vases. Everyone’s kindness is much appreciated.

    • Helen B / Nov 27 2014 4:51 pm

      Hi Emma (and Kate’s mum) Having been through this with my mum, I know a little bit of what you’re going through. I work in children’s books and would very much like to send some books for the Knights. Let me know where best to send and age, i’ll sort some fun books out for them.

    • Yue Man Lee / Dec 11 2014 8:06 pm

      Hi Emma, I would love to send some flowers to Kate. I used to work at Africa Governance Initiative in Rwanda. Please let me know details. Thanks a lot

  6. Emma Flynn / Nov 18 2014 6:55 pm

    Kate- I will put pen to paper soon but you’ll be pleased to know that I have just pre ordered your book…..what an amazing achievement ……although I haven’t seen you for many years..I’m still very proud to have looked after you in your (and my !)younger years! We thought of you a lot the other day as all of us were lucky enough to go to Downing Street and were shown around by someone who knew you!!!! Lots of love Emma F

  7. Jacs / Nov 18 2014 7:07 pm

    Eloquent, emotive, elegant and evocative prose. You’ve moved me to tears. Your writing is stunning and so real; thank you for sharing your story with us, I can only hope and pray that one of these wonder drugs will be more successful than those nuisances inside you.

  8. Sarah DRAGONETTI / Nov 18 2014 10:57 pm

    I, too will look forward to ordering and reading Late Fragments….. thank you for having the dedication and willpower to write it.
    It’s a pain that you are in pain, and if only lots of us could share it, then it would be bearable for all of us.
    Thinking of you, the AbdoBum! your family and friends . Nuisance about the sheepskin coat !

    Lots of good thoughts and love,


  9. Marion Hunter / Nov 19 2014 9:19 am

    I’ve just found your blog having read your piece in the Times today.
    I just wanted to tell you that my sister died of cancer 10 years ago when her daughter Aime was 10 years old. Aime is now 20 and she has had a happy childhood and is becoming a wonderful, engaged and loving adult. Your boys are more resilient than you can imagine and they will survive and flourish as long as they are loved.
    Good luck, I hope your remaining time is happy.
    Marion xx

  10. Sara Kealey / Nov 19 2014 8:01 pm

    Dear Kate,
    The way you describe your on-going battle with Cancer is so eloquent that I can’t help but be moved to tears. I am sure that so many people will find your words of some solace and comfort and hopefully it will make them feel less alone too. I lost my Mum to this horrible disease when I was 18yrs old so have a slight appreciation of what you must be going through.You are in my thoughts.

  11. Gillian Hillier / Nov 19 2014 11:01 pm

    Hi Kate. You probably don’t remember me but I’m another ex no 10 person (I did education and some home office stuff) and another one with twins (must have been something in the water!). Mine are nearly 8. Read your piece in the Times today and was both moved and really heartbroken for you and your boys. My stepsister died of cancer in her 30s with a 3 year old and a baby. although both were very young at the time, she has absolutely been kept alive for them through her many friends and family members, photos, video and lots of other stuff. I really hope the same will be true for your boys. Best wishes. Gillian

  12. Shelley / Nov 28 2014 1:26 am

    Dear Kate
    Ive just been introduced to your blog by a wonderfully inspiring widow who wants to set up a similar service in Italy to the one I run in the UK (Grief Encounter) Im unsure I wil be able to read all of your blogs, as my mother died when I was 4- unlike yourselves, the C word wasnt mentioned and even though I was so young, I knew she distanced herself from me-for reasons I now understand.I cannot tell you the value of what you are doing for your family now; I can only guess at how painful and difficult this must be at times. Ive just finished some Doctoral research into young people’s bereavement, which highlights the importance of life story building and legacy..Id also suggest you build your own life story for them (if you havent already)-maybe with your all too eloquent Mum (on film?) e.g. your primary school days, your friends, your likes and dislikes ( I can send you our new Forever Journal foc if you like)
    In the meantime, carry on with the blogging and humour as much as you can…
    My very best wishes and thank you on behalf of all of us bereaved kids/young people for making OK to talk about death and dying,
    Shelley Gilbert, MBE.

  13. Tom Bown / Dec 1 2014 11:34 am

    Hi Kate, well done on the book and best of luck with everything. I sent you a message via FB which will be languishing in the ‘other’ section of your FB inbox. Tom.

  14. Lorraine / Dec 4 2014 12:11 pm

    Dear Kate,
    The Nuisance needs to take a back seat and give you a break! Your musings have touched me hugely, over the past few months. Your strength and stoicism are inspirational. You need a holiday in the sun, I’ve decided, so while in reality you’re not able to share it, you have been my virtual travel companion these past few weeks. Together, we’ve snorkelled with black-tipped sharked, felt the silky-smooth, slinky rays slide around us in Bora Bora’s clear, warm waters. We’ve idled in the warmth of the Quink ink blue South Pacific ocean as we island-hopped to Chile. I’m writing this from family-friendly St Lucia, where 2 more weeks in the recuperative sun seemed like a good idea. Same old … blue, blue skies, steady heat and gentle zephyrs, an endless ocean horizon and children enjoying the simple pleasures of building castles in the sand. It’s a great battery re-charger for battles with The Nuisance ahead. So, pack your bags… where shall we go next?

  15. rory / Dec 7 2014 6:25 am

    Hello Kate (once more from Dubai), like so many here, I love your writing. I’m just so sorry that the catalyst for it has been such a…. Nuisance. I’ll buy the book and will certainly learn from it, just as I have from so much of what you have already shared. I remain amazed by the power of blogs, and by your ability to cast a spell over the hundreds of people following you. If goodwill worked, you’d be cured, healed, transformed and fixed, but the awful news from your post is that your road gets harder. I am so sorry and I hope that the times you are spending with your family remain full of laughter and goodness.

    It’s obvious that the hundreds who know you and love you are doing their work through your spiral; I think that many more who have picked up on your journey and have been deeply touched by your words are looking for ways to help and support people in their own lives who are experiencing what you have had to endure. In this, and many other ways, you are having an impact far beyond your focus. Please keep sharing, and know that the messages are reverberating.

    Good luck with the trials, the AbdoBum …and finding the right hashtag! With all best wishes. rory

  16. Leah / Dec 11 2014 6:44 pm

    Hello again. I would like to order Late Fragments, but it doesn’t seem available in the USA yet. Do you know if it will be available on Amazon in the U.S. or on another online site? Best wishes for pleasant days.

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