My special times with Kate Granger

Dr Kate Granger with her husband Chris Pointon and chef Michel Roux Jr at the BMJ Awards.

Dr Kate Granger with her husband Chris Pointon and chef Michel Roux Jr at the BMJ Awards.

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Kate Granger was special. In fact that word doesn’t even scratch the surface of what kind of person she was.

But when I first met her in spring 2012, I admit that I didn’t immediately expect to be writing about her astonishing achievements for years to come.

Dr Kate Granger, Courage award at the  Women of Achievement Awards at the New Dock in Clarence Dock, Leeds

Dr Kate Granger, Courage award at the Women of Achievement Awards at the New Dock in Clarence Dock, Leeds

That was the thing about Kate.

Her softly-spoken voice and calm, measured manner - which must have been a huge comfort to the elderly patients she cared for so well - belied her inner strength, determination and drive.

Inspirational Yorkshire doctor Kate Granger dies of cancer at 34

When we met for the first time at a coffee shop in Leeds, I was struck by how matter-of-fact she was, especially about her own mortality.

Dr. Granger at work in Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield

Dr. Granger at work in Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield

I’d been invited to interview her about The Other Side, her first book detailing her diagnosis with an incredibly rare cancer in 2011.

My story was about how the book was supporting the Yorkshire Cancer Centre Appeal but it wasn’t just an article on fundraising – I’d been told Kate would make an interesting interviewee.

Over a hot chocolate, she explained how she had found out she had cancer and suffered terribly through chemotherapy treatment. I was struck by this woman, a few years younger than me, who was facing her terminal diagnosis with so much courage and dignity.

She returned to work a few weeks after that treatment finished, desperate to be back in the job she loved as a doctor.

The story, which appeared on page three of the paper, described the book as “searingly honest”.

“I am very matter of fact about dying and death,” she told me for that article. “I think the quality of your life is much more important than the quantity.”

After that, we stayed in contact for articles about her fundraising – first she reached £50,000, then aimed for £100,000 and eventually set her £250,000 ‘Bucket List’ target.

I could never claim to have known Kate well but whenever I contacted her, it was more like speaking to a friend than a work contact.

And it was generally me contacting her – although she was keen to publicise her fundraising, it was always the cause she wanted to push, not her own story or achievements.

When she started to win awards, first for her fundraising and later for her #hellomynameis campaign, she wouldn’t rush to tell the paper about them. We would be have to approach her.

Her campaign, which promotes more compassionate care, was a perfect example of her empathy and desire, despite all she faced herself, to improve things for others.

The seeds were sown when she told me in that very first interview that she was reflecting on her experiences increased her own empathy with patients.

Her determination came to the fore again when it came to sharing #hellomynameis all over the country, a role Kate took on personally.

Throughout everything, her husband Chris Pointon was her rock, fundraising partner and biggest supporter. It was Chris’s efforts which helped the couple reach the landmark £250,000 total not long before she died.

That money will have a huge impact and she will ever be remembered for that, as well as the incredible difference #hellomynameis has made.

Kate didn’t like being described as ‘brave’ or ‘inspirational’, but it’s hard to find other words that adequately describe her.

Behind those words, she was an exceptional young doctor and person who used what life had thrown at her to not only make the most of the time she had, but to forever change healthcare – and the world – for the better.

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