About Kathleen

‘Fifty Fifty’ is dedicated to Kathleen Bailey, who died in February 2010, just two weeks after Piccadilly Press told me they wanted to publish the book.

Kathleen was a close friend of ours for twenty years and it is still a terrible shock to me that she is dead – it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. It is hard to convey in words what she was like but I hope these pictures will give you some idea.

Kathleen was mad, and funny, and enthusiastic about absolutely everything. She would tickle you until you begged for mercy, and tell awful jokes that made your face ache with laughter, and shake your hand until you thought it was going to fall off. She bought the most immensely generous presents for everyone, all the time. I don’t think I ever remember Kathleen turning up without something – chocolates or flowers or wine or vegetables from the garden, or fridge magnets and souvenirs from the exotic places she travelled to, or an invitation to something that we simply had to do together.  Then she always wore fabulous clothes in bright colours – purple was her favourite – and encouraged everyone to enjoy themselves as much as she enjoyed herself. She could be serious, too, and she was clever and extremely good at her job, but the thing everyone really associated with Kathleen was fun. She just wanted everyone to have a good time.

When Kathleen got cancer no one could believe it. She was only 41, and it came out of the blue.  And when someone is as alive as Kathleen was, it’s difficult to see how they can possibly die. She had a kind of cancer called lymphoma, which is similar to leukaemia – very difficult to treat, because it travels all round your body in the lymph system. She knew that the cancer was extremely aggressive. For five months she had every treatment the hospital could come up with, but none of them killed the cancer. It just kept coming back.  At the point where she died the hospital were about to try something drastic – a treatment based on arsenic, a lethal poison, in the hope that it would destroy the cancer before the cancer destroyed her.

Even in hospital Kathleen didn’t give up. You may know that one of the main treatments for cancer, chemotherapy, has awful side-effects, including making all your hair fall out. This is because chemotherapy is basically a poison that kills growing cells. So it kills the cancer cells, but it also kills other growing cells like hair and blood. When Kathleen’s hair fell out she was devastated.  But then she ordered a really good wig, and when we went to see her in hospital one day she had the wig hanging next to her bed. There was a wonderful moment when Phil, my husband, looked at the wig and Kathleen said ‘Oh, go on Phil – you know you want to.’  So Phil put on Kathleen’s long black wig and pranced around in front of the mirror.  He looked like someone out of a really bad heavy metal band. And Kathleen laughed. She laughed and laughed until we thought she might fall out of bed, and we expected the nurses to come running to see what we’d done to her…

If Kathleen had met you, she would have wanted to know all about you. She would have tried to make you laugh.  She would have teased you something rotten. She would have been like your favourite aunty or godmother or big cousin and you would have looked forward to her coming round and missed her when she wasn’t there. She was just fabulous. She was so pleased when I told her that ‘Fifty Fifty’ was going to be published, even though by that time she knew she was going to die.  If she was alive today, I know Kathleen would be out there on the streets with a big pile of my books, marching up to perfect strangers and demanding that they bought a copy. She’d be broadcasting from the rooftops with a megaphone if she thought it would help me sell the book. It would have been such fun. And that’s why I miss her.