Science & Medicine

Chris Harper remembers KDF

Chris Harper

My Hillbilly Friend With a Transatlantic Sense of Humour. I met Kathy Flynn online on 4th November 2011. We were both months out of transplant and soon become friends. We shared many traits including her wicked sense of humour and often messaged online as we recovered. When she told me she was in Texas I responded ‘Wow, first time I have met a hillbilly’ She responded ‘Hah! My parents would love that!’ And she has been hillbilly or KDF to me ever since.

Her sense of humour was excellent and transatlantic. I was used to joking or telling jokes to her fellow countrymen and this would elicit a response of a smile and a statement of ‘you’re funny’ but no laughter. Kathy laughed like a drain and appreciated humour and brit’ sarcasm, even when on the receiving end of a gentle prod. Her responses were quick and sharp; she could give as good as she got.

She was an excellent communicator and supporter of others and I have always been in awe of the sheer number of people that Kathy, KDF, Dubes had touched, influenced and was indeed loved by. This was often evidenced by facebook overload when she posted or more recently when someone did a progress update for her, not just likes but incredible feedback.

We had many conversations during our friendship as she tackled her two transplants and brain tumour, which she did stoically and very bravely. Within facebook, those conversations still exist in the ether and I got immense pleasure scrolling back through them recently. Her brilliant writing style and clear mind shone out throughout. We shared honestly and openly through the rollercoaster or our own conditions and then those that we helped online. She clearly showed empathy to fellow patients but I also recall her wishing to show someone the thick end of a baseball bat if they didn’t get on with treatment that was their only potential survival option. That person is doing well!

We finally met in LA in April 2013 KDF - chris and KDF in lobbywhen Lesley and I travelled to a transplant survivorship symposium and the picture of us was taken there minutes after our first meeting. That meeting in itself was special as I was greeted with a silent bear hug which I tried, unsuccessfully to extricate myself from after a couple of minutes (only out of a sense of decorum because who wouldn’t like being hugged by a beautiful woman) only to be held even tighter. Kathy explained that it was a special moment for her as I was the first Myelofibrosis and transplantee patient she had met in the flesh! Well it was pretty special for me too. When I explained this to Lesley later she said ‘Oh that’s a relief as I thought she was trying to get away from you!’.

I did share a live online broadcast TV interview platform with her in LA where she was a late substitute. I often teased her afterwards that I was not allowed to get a word in edgeways but the truth was that she was far more articulate than me as well as being prettier, so got the attention of the interviewer. Our meeting simply cemented our friendship.
Kathy and Ann Haehn (on behalf of her daughter Genny) were my first close MF transplant buddies and we became, and are, forever friends supporting stem cell transplants. Ann and Kathy have done brilliant work with their families adding numerous names to the bone marrow registry in America as their way of ‘paying it forward’ for their treatment. I simply do buddying.

Kathy was my muse for the occasional rhyme to cheer her up.  At one time she complained about the loss of her luxuriant locks to chemo and it’s slow regrowth and got this in response:

Ode to ‘Bonnie’
Hillbilly Bonnie a real Texan beaut
Pixie cut hair that makes her quite cute
Great sense of humour, as sharp as can be
Deals with all problems with A-la-crity

Alacrity became our word as she once gave me ‘ten points for using such a word on the MPNForum facebook page. One dictionary definition of ‘real cheerful readiness’ was a good description of how she conducted herself.

After meeting in LA we were cyber friends for a few years before Lesley and I popped over to meet her again in Houston while she was having her brain tumour chemotherapy. I remember Jim Flynn saying he was pleased we had flown in to see her, I told him that I would have happily walked the same distance just to make her smile, she was that special. She was hoping to stay around for her 50th birthday something the doctors were not sure about. However, she was determined to celebrate this milestone and I didn’t doubt that she would achieve this and, of course, she did.

KDF was an important part of my life for a few years and I wish I had known her longer. Not a single day passes without thoughts of her and I still sport my ‘No One Engages Alone’ band that she secured for me in LA.

Farewell my wonderful hillbilly friend, I know you will be missed by 100’s as you were incredibly popular and touched so many lives positively. You have been an important part of my life for several years and will always be a strong, positive memory. ‘No one engages alone’. We didn’t.


Other Rhymes Inspired By and For KDF

“I know a lass who is sharp and witty
Having a time that is rather s****y
But as she is so strong and gritty
She’ll tackle it with ……….”

“My transplant sister KDF
Has felt a little rough
But soon she will be back on form
Because, my, that girl is tough

She will be fine everywhere she goes
Out of town or in the city
Spreading joy amongst her many friends
With ‘real cheerful readiness’  (Thought you could do with an alacrity moment! 😊”)

Ode to a hillbilly

I know a girl
called Kathy Flynn
Beautiful from the outside
And also within

Loved by so many
Cute and pretty
Does everything
With Al-a-crity

Is a great mother
Plotter and planner
As she looks after Jim
Sam, Abby and Hannah

Friend to all
Inspiration to many
Doing a good job
Like ‘SCT sister’ Genny

Enjoys a good time
You just should have seen her
Dancing in Houston
with ‘SCT sister’ Marina

For MPNForum
Doing what she can
Paying forward in spades
Like ’soul sister’ Ann

So many love you
Look at Lesley and Chris
Flew into Houston
Just for a cuddle and kiss

Many are thinking
Praying, rooting too
Because KDF
They all love you.


Take me back to the Contents

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