Tuesday, 11 October 2005


Sometimes life is pish! There is no other expression for it. I just found out this morning that a friend of mine has died. It's not as if it wasn't expected at some point but it still doesn't make it any better when it happens.

I worked with Katrina at what turned out to be the worst job ever. Okay, that's not strictly true, the job wasn't so bad there were just a few dodgy folk who screwed it up for everybody else. In 1999 I left the Dugald Baird Centre to join a research project in the Department of Medicine & Therapeutics as the Local Co-ordinator. It was a 6 year post, pretty much permanent as far research posts go, and looked pretty good. So off I toddled to TOMBOLA (Trial of Management of Borderline and other Low-grade Abnormal smears) full of enthusiasm for the prospect of a research project that might have an impact on the future health of women. I must admit it looks as though it has as part of the trial looked at the HPV strains which are precursors to cervical cancer and are now subject to the new vaccines.

Katrina was the overall Trial Manager and had a research and publication record as long as your arm. She was very petite, pretty, vivacious, good fun and fit as fuck! She did try and persuade me that running in my lunchtime was a good idea - I never fell for it. She had a gorgeous hubby called Glenn and 2 sappy bearded collies, Dylan and Murphy. They were nearly the size of her! The two of us clicked really well together and I enjoyed the job when it first kicked off. Unfortunately things didn't carry on so well as other members of the research team, those who had done the pre-grant application work, didn't take too well to letting go and enabling the project to progress. One individual in particular was the most insiduous little bitch who decided to make a number of people's lives hell. I was bullied to the extent that I ended up being off work for 8 months after a nervous breakdown. I never went back and left to go to another job instead. Katrina tried desperately to sort out the problems but this particular individual, with the support of others, continued to bully and undermine a number of other team members. It was the worst breakdown of working relationships I have ever seen. If it wasn't for Katrina I probably would have gone under much sooner than I did. She was only one person, she couldn't change such a horrific situation without support. In the end, she also went off sick due to stress and anxiety. The main individual concerned eventually sued the University for constructive dismissal and because they had failed to follow the correct procedures for what turned out to be an 8 year record of bullying and harassment she won her case. In the meantime she had managed to get rid of around 9 members of staff. Funnily enough the University now has a policy in place on workplace bullying but we have never received an apology for the absolutely shocking way we were treated.

Katrina tried to get back to work but struggled to cope after the huge bashing her confidence and self-esteem had taken. We had a bit of a mutual support group going to try and get each other back on track. She was always much more of a fighter than me. I didn't really start to improve until I went for some CBT 18 months ago - the best thing I ever did to improve my mental health. Then at Christmas Katrina got in touch and told me that her cancer was back and there were secondary cancers in the bone as well. I saw her in January and took her a soft loopy scarf (Colinette, waht else!) to give her something soft against her skin during her chemo.

I wish I'd gone to see her again but then I think she had enough on her hands fighting this bout of cancer. She was really bubbly and funny and we clicked and I'm just sorry that it must have been so painful for her at the end. I won't be able to go to the funeral on Thursday as it's when I fly down to London but then I'd rather remember in my head as this lively woman in her miniskirts who still used vegetable oil for tanning lotion rather than anything that had the whiff of an SPF factor in it. I don't want my last memory of her to be lying in a box in the crematorium.

Thanks Katrina for making sure I'm still here when it could have all gone so badly. You were one of the good things to come out of a really crap situation. I am so glad that I knew you even if it was for only a few years.


Kx said...

OK, you've made me want to cry, not on! Yip life is pish, but if you remember to take the good things out of it instead of just the bad, hopefully you will only have pee up to your ankles!

anna said...

i'm sorry to hear this. there's never a good thing to say when a friend dies, and cancer is just the cruellest thing of all. take care of yourself.

Ali said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your freind, By your description it seems that she was full of life and enjoyed her time here - which is about as much as most of us can hope for.
Hope your trip to London helps to lift your spirits!