A woman from Finchley danced at her son’s wedding just 12 weeks after brain surgery left her needing to learn to walk all over again.
Five years on and her son now plans to run the London Marathon, on April 23, to raise money for The National Brain Appeal.
In October 2012, Matthew Cunnah, now 35, had just returned from his stag party when he got a call from his father to say that his mother, Wendy Cunnah, now 60, had been admitted to hospital.
Retired lecturer Wendy had been working in her garden when she developed stroke-like symptoms and then collapsed. Fortunately her husband, Reverand Spencer Cunnah, pastor of Kensit Evangelical Church in Hendon Lane, was with her and immediately called for an ambulance.
Paramedics suspected that Wendy may have had a stroke so rushed her to the nearest emergency stroke centre at University College Hospital in Euston. However, when doctors scanned Wendy’s brain they discovered that she had a brain tumour that had grown so large it had cut off the blood supply to part of her brain.
She was transferred to The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Queen Square, a specialist centre for diseases of the brain, spine and nervous system. Surgeons explained to Wendy that she needed an urgent operation. Her tumour was a meningioma, growing in the layers of tissue that surrounds the brain, the meninges. It was on the right side of her brain and was affecting her movement on the left side of her body.
Matthew comments: “Whilst in many ways, this was out of the blue for mum, looking back she did recall having episodes of dizziness and nausea. At the time she just put this down to feeling under the weather.”
After the surgery, Wendy was cared for in the hospital’s Molly Lane Fox Unit, University College Hospital, a specialist ward for patients with brain tumours funded by The National Brain Appeal charity which Matthew is now fundraising for.
She wasn’t able to use her left leg and had to learn to walk again with the help of the ward’s specialist physio and occupational therapists.
Matthew and Hannah, his then wife-to-be, were due to get married just twelve weeks after Wendy’s brain surgery. She was determined that not only would she be there, but that she would be dancing at the wedding.
Wendy was discharged two weeks after her operation and continued to have daily sessions with physiotherapists at home for several weeks.
Matthew said: “My mother is a very determined person. In a way, our wedding date being so close to her operation gave her a goal to focus on.”
The wedding took place in Hampshire on December 21, 2012. Wendy was there and achieved her goal of dancing at her son’s wedding.
It reportedly took Wendy about six months to properly feel herself again. She had been working prior to the surgery as a lecturer in education at Bedford University. She decided to take early retirement once she had recovered.
She remains very active, walking Matthew’s dog Barney, attending fitness classes and being very involved in the church. She now also loves being a grandmother to Olivia who is just two-years-old.
Matthew had been so impressed by the level of care his mother received at The National Hospital that he felt compelled to support them in some way. He asked his mother’s neurosurgeon for suggestions and he told him that The National Brain Appeal charity supports the hospital, investing in specialist technology and infrastructure such as such as the specialist brain tumour ward where Wendy had been cared for.
Having raised £2500 for The National Brain Appeal in 2015 with the 1000 Mile Challenge, 164 runs over the course of a year from John O’Groats to Land’s End, Matthew is now attempting his first marathon.
He said: “My goal is to raise £2012 to mark the year that my mother came through her major challenge of recovering from brain surgery and learning to walk again.”
To support Matthew go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cunnahmarathon