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Reform Magazine | November 29, 2023

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On the pilgrim way: “Will we never again go for a country walk?”

maxeySheila Maxey falls out with her body

The advice, both spiritual and secular, is: “Listen to your body.” I have been ignoring the muttering of my right knee for years, but now its screeching for attention seems to be taking over my life. I am awaiting an MRI scan, a diagnosis and treatment. Meanwhile (how long is that?) spiritual challenges abound among the regular ice packs and ibrufin.

I realise, to my shame, how proud I have been of my good health and comparatively youthful appearance. As I slowly walk to a nearby cafe, using my new stick, to meet my long-suffering husband for coffee once he has completed the shopping (the treat of the day), I feel I have become a little old lady.

I am full of fear for the future. Will we never again go for a long country walk? Or cycle on our electric bikes through the lanes to a country pub? (Get out the violins at this point!)
Worst of all is the prison of self-absorption, so much of it focussed on my right knee. I wake wondering how it feels this morning – how bad will the pain be when I stand up. As I potter around the house there is always a voice in my head asking: “Is it a bit better now? Or worse?” I bore family and friends with the story of my knee. I want to cry – if it were not too dramatic – with St Paul: “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

I think God used Lorraine, the masseuse at the spinal clinic, to get through to me. After easing the pain with her expert fingers, and giving me hope through her exercise advice, she said: “Of course, your attitude will make a big difference.” I realised then that I was actually angry with my poor knee: It had let me down.

So, while still listening to it carefully and conscientiously resting it and ice-packing it, I am gradually realising I have been given a gift of time – to read, to sew, to knit, and to look out at the lovely summer garden. And as I get absorbed in these things, or enjoy the visits of friends, or begin to engage with the issues of the world through radio and newspapers, the knee’s voice becomes quieter.

What remains a big challenge is how to cope with not knowing how long I will have to wait – either to get better, or to get a scan appointment. As soon as I begin to try to estimate – a four to six week wait for the scan… then the wait for the result… then perhaps get in the queue for keyhole surgery – I begin to panic. What must it be like for those waiting for permission to stay in this country, for those in refugee camps waiting years and years to return to their home country? I know these people still marry, have children, celebrate family events – get on with living each day. So surely I, facing this little hiccup on my pilgrim way, can do the same?

Sheila Maxey is book reviews editor for Reform


This article was published in the September 2014 edition of  Reform.

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