Last night, JD went to training at her fencing club. She used to love fencing and was quite good at it, winning a handful of local and club competitions. Fencing is physical chess. Perhaps not the best sport to do when your focus, concentration and handling speed have been severely affected by radiotherapy. But it is also important that she keeps busy and involved with ‘normal’ life. So I take her to training every week. The people at the club are starting to understand what the problem is with her and are taking care when they fence her. They don’t fence at their normal speed and slow things down greatly, turning it in to more of a lesson and play-session than a genuine fencing bout.
As I sat there watching, I felt my heart break. I realised I was watching someone with brain damage trying to do things that are no longer possible (well, not until the side effects have gone). She just stood there with her foil pointing forward. Her own fencing clothes fit no more so she’s wearing ill-fitting club-kit that is 4 sizes bigger. She hunches forward. She has no handling speed, no concentration, no ability to react to her opponent. Imagine watching a fencing bout in slow-motion. Her opponents are considerate and slow down as well, leaving her time to decide on a reply to a move they have made. But it is not fencing. It is something different altogether. She forgets to salute the opponent before and after the bout (a mortal sin in fencing), she walks away without shaking hands (another punishable offense); She is slow to get ready so that everyone else has already started their matches and AB is still putting her helmet on, making her opponent wait and wait.
I cringed every time it happened because I was afraid that people who did not know her problem would think she is a rude woman with no respect for the fencing rules. She isn’t.
Surely she is aware of the fact that what she is doing is not really fencing and that people are ‘letting her win’? Or perhaps the lack of emotional response is currently a blessing in disguise: she doesn’t seem too upset about it. Maybe because she is not really able to sense many emotions.
I have tears in my eyes thinking about it again. What has happened to my beautiful wife? Funny, sporty, quick witted, caring, loving, considerate, articulate. I miss her. If I was convinced this would all be temporary, I would not be so upset perhaps. But some things are permanent. We just don’t know which things. And how bad it will remain.