A story of determination to get well


My trusty bouncer has been part of my life since the mid 80s when Elaine and I were working together and I watched her work out on hers. I had taken up jogging rather late in life to try to overcome what I thought of as a permanent weight problem. I developed a stress injury in top vertebrae so the cushioned bouncer was ideal for me. I still use it regularly – almost every morning when I am at home either in London or Herefordshire. I no longer use the tape Elaine gave me though- rather I do it while listening to the Today programme- my life is so busy I like to kill two birds with one stone- keeping up with the political gossip while keeping fit.

I have had bowel cancer twice- the first time at the unusually early age of 46, and the second time followed by surgical complications which resulted in a complete body sepsis which very nearly killed me- I was given less than one per cent chance of survival- and resulting in spending almost seven months in hospital. I have a rare form of hereditary colon cancer which is not usually preceded by polyps but none the less I have very regular check ups and of course ensure that my two children do the same.

I am very thankful to have made such a spectacularly good recovery and I put this down to the wonderful NHS, my devoted family, and my own determination to survive. Of course when you are very ill you always say to yourself- ‘I will do things differently- I will not work so hard, I will take it easier, eat more healthily.’ I certainly do the latter though I have not given up red wine in spite of all Elaine’s warnings! I am as busy, if not more so than I have ever been and my guiding philosophy and driver ‘Get it done’ is even more urgent . I chair two government committees, am President or Patron of many organisations and still find it hard to say no to a worthy cause. I wrote the novel about Jane Austen I had always promised myself I would though, and have re connected with cooking, making preserves and a wild flower meadow and a gorgeous garden in Herefordshire. I am a very active working Peer- yes there are some of us who go to the House of Lords every single afternoon and evening- and a Deputy Speaker too. The Woolsack is pretty uncomfortable and I am sure is bad for the posture so I had better keep bouncing.

Baroness Pitkeathley