Katinka in the Clouds - Blog

The blog of Kate Griffin. For the last 33 years we have lived up here at the head of the Holme Valley and have not once felt any urge to move again. It has proved inspirational for me. The places where I set my stories and plays, whether it is north, south, east or west, have as much significance and potency as the characters, and since living here the landscape has had a profound effect on my writing. In the last few years, since health problems have clipped my wings I have taken up painting and much of what I paint is very local, sometimes from the house or garden. In my writing I have explored the lives, loves, passions and drama of ordinary people, often taking audiences and readers into dark and uncomfortable places and now, in my painting, I have found, using the texture of paint and the juxtaposition of colours, a new way to express my passion for the tough and gritty world that we live in.

A battle?

A battle?

Many, many years ago a very dear friend, (let us call him Paul,) phoned me.  His partner, (let us call him Michael,) was dying of terminal lung cancer.  Paul was phoning in a panic to say that Michael was unconscious. He had phoned the emergency services.  I asked if he wanted me to come round, and he said yes.  I arrived just as the paramedics were coming downstairs.  It was obvious from their demeanour that Michael had died.  Paul and I had a hug, and talked for a while.  Then, as we were waiting for the GP to come, confirm the death and issue the death certificate, I asked Paul if I could sit with Michael for a while.  I went upstairs and sat beside Michael’s dead body. What happened next took me a bit by surprise.  As I sat there a strange notion came into my head.  I just knew that the cliché about battling with cancer was a nonsense.  It was not Michael who had lost the battle; it was the cancer, parasite-like, that had killed its host and had nowhere to go.  And Michael was the one who was free, no more pain, distress, anxiety, fear.  He was the winner.  I have no idea about what happens after death, I am complete agnostic about such matters; some people do have a clear idea, I just keep discreetly quiet about it.  But I did know that in some way Michael was safe and liberated.

I had always hated — with a passion — the glib journalistic platitude when a death is announced and they add:  “She/he has lost their battle with cancer.”  And what I felt, sitting there with Michael, confirmed that reaction.  And I am not the only one.  There have been a plethora of books, blogs, vlogs, written by people with cancer and a recurring theme is the dislike about talk of “the battle”, and “bravery”.  I can remember reading John Diamond on this subject.  He said having cancer does not automatically confer “bravery “on the patient.  He had no sense that he was fighting or being brave, he was just doing what the doctors told him to do, taking the medication, weighing up pros and cons when choices  were offered and generally feeling s***t scared.  And he did not know what “being  positive” meant.  I have read similar reactions from others.  Having cancer does not set the patient aside and elevate that person to some heroic status.

And neither does any other disease. 

Why do I feel so strongly abut this?

Well, first, it is yet another way to blame the patient.  If things are not going well for us then, according to that scenario, it is our fault because we are not fighting hard enough, energetically enough, we are not using our weapons correctly, we are not — God forbid — being positive.

And, secondly, because — for me — it simply does not feel like a battle. Maybe for some of you do it does?  Yes, I do accept that breathing, discomfort and pain is a struggle, but that does not quite make it feel like a battlefield.  What I do feel is that I am intensely human: real and alive in a new existence, a new phase of life, a new stage of the journey.  And I promise in spite of what I said about the afterlife, I shall come back and haunt anyone who writes, says or even thinks; “Kate has lost her battle with lung disease.”

This was triggered by our going to my sister-in-laws funeral on Wednesday and listening to my brother speaking of her and about her cancer. 



You cannot be serious?


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Monday, 25 March 2019