Sunday, 2 December 2012


This week, for personal reasons, I have felt somewhat like the rural community of Muchelney in Somerset, which has been marooned, due to the severe flooding that has impacted the region.  All roads in and out of the British village have been closed for seven days.  Rescue crews have had to deliver vital supplies by rubber dingy to the 120 villagers. 
BARB rescue crews help villagers stranded by floods in Muchelney
One of the UK's leading potters, John Leach (eldest grandson of the renowned potter Bernard Leach, “the father of the British studio pottery”), has had his workshop flooded and his business disrupted.  In my own way, I too have been cut off from normal life – on Tuesday I saw a medical consultant who rapidly diagnosed the reason as to why I have been suffering vocal issues for the past three months – I have a paralysed right vocal fold (aka vocal chord), caused by an ineffective nerve.  That sounded unpleasant, but not life-threatening, until the consultant said that I needed to go for an MRI that afternoon to determine whether a tumour was compressing and damaging the nerve along its path from my brain.  The concept of a brain tumour is pretty unpleasant although the enormity of the issue and its impact did not hit me until later.

Before we progress, I’m pleased to report that a brain tumour has been ruled out as a cause for the paralysis and, as a result, I am able to look back at the week’s events, assess their impact and see what I have learned.  The MRI visit certainly added to my life’s experiences.  I spent about 40 minutes inside the noisy, clunking scanner, aware of its every sound and the vibration of my wedding ring, causing my fingers to tingle.  I had an almost Hannibal Lecter-like grill over my face and, despite having a diagonal mirror above my eyes to enable me to see out of the tube, I am glad that I don’t suffer from claustrophobia - the doughnut ring of surrounding magnetic coils could be intimidating.  I had little emotional response to what was happening until I reached home that evening and placed the disc I had been given into my PC.  The sight of the cross sections of soft tissue and bone that make up my head and neck had a profound effect on me.  It made me acutely aware of my own mortality and the need to ensure that, if my days were numbered, I had made sufficient plans to support those I love.

I am quite organised (I have: an up to date will; agreed with individuals that they will be there for my sons should something awful happen; a good relationship and am in regular contact with both my parents and the people I love; a wonderful group of friends who know of my deep respect and fondness for them; a succession plan in place at work, etc...).  However, the sudden, sharp shock of my situation made me review what I had put in place to ensure it was all as it should be.  It is sad that it took a traumatic experience to make me reconsider things that are probably the most important to me/in my life.  As time progresses certain plans need to be amended/adapted to reflect the changes in circumstances – I make sure that it is done at work but I was not so rigorous where it really matters at home.  I will be from now on...

People with whom I have clashed recently came into a different focus, as my own outlook changed – small spats seem so unnecessary and hurtful compared to the pleasures of companionship, mutual support, shared joy, growth and understanding.  Those who are unwilling or unable to be friendly and polite are in a bad place in their own heads.  There are so many wonderful things in life that it seems stupid to allow the petty and trivial to deter from all there is that gives pleasure.  I knew that, even if I only had a few days or months, I intended to live life to the full with the people I love.  I will hang onto that thought – I will focus on the good times and make sure people round me are enjoying their lives too.  I became more aware of the value of things that matter to me.

Although I only spent a few days marooned with my own thoughts and fears, the experience has actually brought me closer to those I appreciate and love.  I was reminded of how amazing people can be by friends, family and acquaintances who knew what I was going through and who, unconditionally, were there for me.  Thank you!  Your attitude was humbling and I hope I can show the same positivity, compassion and care, especially if it is not required. 


  1. Insightful post Kate. Wishing you a speedy recovery and wonderful that you have a supportive network of friends and family. Cherish them and your presence in this world.

    Have had 2 life threatening incidents and can empathise with your perspective.

  2. I am humbled at the number of people who have had similar experiences to mine (and who have also come to the same conclusions, that those who are close to you and the wonders of life cannot have a value placed upon them, but that they should be appreciated and enjoyed)

  3. Oh Kate, I just read your blog, I was very moved and wanted to send you a virtual hug.

    I don't claim to know you well, however, I know that you are one of lifes 'good uns'. From the moment I met you Kate I had a great deal of respect for you. You give work your all, you are fun and I'm also aware you also have a tendancy to put others first.

    You've been through a testing time, I love your reference to looking on the brighter side of life, however, I also hope that you get more time to do the things you enjoy and you put yourself first more often.

    Big hugs, warm hugs.
    Clare xx

  4. So so glad that you got the all clear, hope you find a swift solution for the vocal chord, and manage to hold your new insight close for a long time!

    Lydia x