Wendy Woolfson


On a bad pain day, a school day he comes into my bedroom in the morning to say goodbye before leaving. I’m zoned out in a half drugged, half tired slumber. I don’t know how I look to him now, lying in bed most of the time.  Sometimes he has to wake me up to say goodbye. I try and muster as much energy as I can, as quickly as possible in an attempt to make it look less bad. I throw on a bright smile, and say encouraging words for the day, try to not let the pain show, which at that time of day is usually a bass pounding through my head with an accompanying orchestra of stabbing pains in my ear and eye. It breaks my heart that he has to see me like this. I keep wondering, what does he think? After he leaves I drift off again into a reluctant half sleep thinking about what I might do today if I can summon up the energy. Even as I write this my eyes are half closing and I’m trying hard to focus. Time to drink my coffee to counterbalance the effects of the morphine which have taken three hours to start taking effect.

I hear the door close as he heads off to school. It’s a beautiful late January day. The sun is shining against a pale blue sky and the birds are singing. I imagine them hopping about on the frosted grass, and I can hear the crows cawing in the distance. I lie in bed most of the day now. I have so little energy. I’ve lost about a stone and a half in weight which, to be honest, is a good thing, I was a bit overweight before, but with it I’ve lost muscle too and have so little strength left. It feels strange to not be able to lift him up anymore, and not just because he’s grown. I can’t help thinking about how I used to be so strong, doing hot yoga, cycling, hill climbing, and now, nothing. It’s a completely new version of me.

Patience: that was the Angel card I drew last night, and my husband drew it too. I guess we’re both going to need a lot of it as this healing seems to take time. I feel like I’ve been learning patience for a long time. I went through therapy for Compllex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) a few years ago and each day was another step on my path to mental health recovery, it seemed I would never reach the end but I did. Gradually I began to notice positive changes and little by little I got better and could function in a more positive way. I learnt how to smile again. So, I guess the same can happen with this; I’ll get better, and it’ll be a slow process but I’ll start to see the changes, and I’ll learn how to be strong again. I’m still assuming I will get well again.

I’m going to get well and grow into a new version of me, so I’m going to try to do some Qi Gong. It’s gentle and slow, balances energy and energises at the same time. I managed a twenty-minute online session yesterday and it was tiring but I’m glad I did it. It’s similar to the Tai Chi I did in my twenties. I used to go to the community centre each week for about five years and I got quite good at it, even started learning the fighting form. I enjoyed Tai Chi for its spiritual practice too, we would meditate at the start and end of each class and consciously gather our Chi (energy) towards us. However, I know that I won’t necessarily be consistent with this exercise as I get tired days and I won’t put pressure on myself to do it. As time has passed since I started writing this it’s obvious that I only have the energy to do this occasionally which I have to resign myself to. I have to be patient with my body, not push myself, and learn what I can and cannot do.

I believe things like injury and illness can show up in our lives to teach us something, and if there’s something for me to learn in this, it’s to slow down and be patient, and get back to my spiritual practice. In my twenties and early thirties, I was much more focused on that and over the last two decades it’s gradually slipped away. Nowadays I meditate more as it helps the pain, so adding the Qi Gong in makes sense. I haven’t done any exercise in the last three years except walk the dogs. I kept finding it so difficult to find the energy to do anything, and now I know it was the tumour growing in my head that was causing it. It’s funny how something so small can have such a huge impact. Four centimetres of space being taken up in my head and it throws everything off.

I left this piece of writing to marinate for a couple of months and it’s April now, the sun and the daffodils have come, bringing spring and a sense of hope. My garden is bursting into bloom and I’ve managed to put a couple of plants in the ground and spread some compost. At times, my garden feels like a metaphor for my health; if I can gather energy to do something to nurture it then I can do something for myself too.  Healthwise, it feels like my patience is paying off. According to the CT scans, the tumour is stable and not spreading any further which is much welcome news. Less welcome, is the continuing pain and numbness which has got worse, but I go into my garden and I breathe in. Patience Wendy, patience.