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Catherine was born in Carshalton, Surrey, to itinerant physician parents who settled in Bristol. Her first degree was in psychology before becoming a medical student; undergraduate courses were spiced with extensive international travel. She made deep and long lasting friendships, supporting many others through hard times. Her sense of fairness was demonstrated in a shrewd and self-revealing Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine review of Ray Tallis's book Hippocratic Oaths. She had just started her final nephrology training post when the symptoms of secondary cancer developed. A nomadic generalist by inclination, she served as surgeon lieutenant commander RNR (Royal Naval Reserve), including a memorable spell at sea aboard HMS Southampton in 2002.
Catherine—known to her wide circle as Ging, from her hair colouring—was a sociable individual, but one who had a serious and enquiring side: during enforced chemotherapy leave she took GCSE history and Open University courses. When abroad she did not ignore the plight of those who could never share her privileges but who may be overlooked by backpackers and tourists. She was firmly loyal to those she loved: family, friends, patients. Her last four years were spent with Dr Peter Chapman, whom she married with joy and optimism a few weeks after her relapse was confirmed; he nursed her to the end with devoted tenderness. She died as she lived: positive and uncomplaining, buttressed by a confident, unostentatious Christian faith. She leaves her husband, parents, two siblings, and a goddaughter niece, whom she was determined to see before her death.