In the deepest days of depression, Wendy Woolfson was wracked by dark emotions that ignited distressing questions over life itself.

Dreadful thoughts of ending her life crossed her mind for years until the support of a therapist, writing and talking openly of her feelings set her on a healing journey.

But just as the mother or two was savouring every moment of her renewed vigour for life, has came the most ironic blow.

A tumour behind her eye was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in late November. After a miserable round of chemotherapy, Wendy told her oncologist she was opting out, pinning hopes that other treatments, diet and positive mindset can pull her through.

In between, she has poured her thoughts into writing and art: lavishly decorated journals, a deeply personal blog and collages of vintage papers, delicate lace interspersed with poems and pictures.

Now her powerful story of overcoming suicidal thoughts and finding happiness only to be rocked by the worst kind of diagnosis is set to be published in a deeply moving and yet life-affirming book which she hopes might support others wrestling with difficult days.

The Herald: One of writer Wendy Woolfson's collagesOne of writer Wendy Woolfson's collages (Image: Wendy Woolfson)

Wendy, 53, a mother of two teenagers, says the irony of having once wished her life away only to now face the reality of her diagnosis, is not lost on her.

“I spent most of my adult life feeling suicidal and I’m now in a position where I could have this ‘sweet release’ that I was once so set on... but I don’t want it,” she says.

“It’s so ironic, I almost have to laugh about it.

“I get things together; I have a life that I’m in love with and am so grateful for everything I have, and I feel like it has been thrown under the bus.

“But I am determined to come out the other side.”

Wendy, who specialises in supporting children and families through adverse childhood experiences, trauma, mental health and emotional issues, began chronicling her story as she realised her health was unravelling.

It started as a therapeutic outlet to support her own mental health through her difficult journey and to keep her busy during days away from work, feeling sick.

Soon each poignant chapter on her blog became a reflection of her diagnosis, interwoven with recollections of the childhood trauma that put her mental health into a downward spiral and the inspiring journey of how she overcame that to discover a new passion for being alive and the beauty of the world around her.

And, having been given her diagnosis, how she is coming to terms with what it means and her determination that, while “staring down the barrel of a gun”, she is “not done yet”.

While her collage art found beauty and delight often in the simplest of things: vintage scraps of lace, old adverts and newspaper excerpts offering snippets of strangers’ lives, the corner of a page of music and lines from poems which told their own story of her road to recovery.


The Herald: Wendy Woolfson creates vintage-inspired collagesWendy Woolfson creates vintage-inspired collages (Image: Wendy Woolfson)

As one chapter followed the next – written, she says, almost as if another being was guiding her words and thoughts – what began to feel like a book began to emerge.

She floated the idea on fund-raising site, Kickstarter, and was overwhelmed by the support: with days before its deadline to spare, she more than doubled her target.

Now she is in the process of putting the final touches to her book ‘Journaling a Journey’ with a view to publishing it in the next few weeks.

It is an unexpected joyful moment after a nightmare year that saw a niggling problem affecting her right ear evolve into a life-changing diagnosis in November.

That came after a long wait for hospital tests, during which time her condition worsened, she began suffering terrible headaches and the sight in her right eye became affected.

She recalls: “It started with my right ear feeling like it was blocking up, and now I feel so stupid for leaving it for so long before I went to the doctor.

“I waited weeks for an emergency hospital appointment, then my right eye started to droop. I thought it was weird, I couldn’t lift up my eyelid.”

The Herald: Mindful thinking: collage by Wendy WoolfsonMindful thinking: collage by Wendy Woolfson (Image: Wendy Woolfson)

Five months after first seeing her GP, and still waiting to be seen at hospital, during a break from work she realised how ill she was feeling.

And with a history of brain aneurysms in her family, she began to feel increasingly concerned.

Despite again raising her fears with her GP, it was not until August that she received a hospital appointment for an emergency MRI scan. Further scans confirmed she had a tumour in November.

It was finally diagnosed as a four centimetre tumour in early December.

“The oncologist said it was stage four and it was serious,” she says. “So, it’s not a great diagnosis.”

Wendy, who lives in Ayrshire with her husband and two sons, received a round of chemotherapy but it left her feeling so ill that she resolved not to continue it.

She has been told surgery poses too great a risk of brain and eye damage.

Instead, she is undergoing immunotherapy treatment and following a strict low carbohydrate ketogenic diet.

“Prior to Christmas it was aggressively growing, I was full of painkillers and week by week it was getting worse,” she adds.

“Now, so far so good, the tumour has stopped growing. It’s stable and that is incredible.

The Herald: Wendy Woolfson's collage art will feature in her bookWendy Woolfson's collage art will feature in her book (Image: Wendy Woolfson)

“And I am holding steady and putting one foot in front of the other – there’s nothing else I can do.”

Working on the book, which will merge her writing and artwork, has been a welcome distraction from her illness, she adds.

“My job has a lot of responsibly and to be off work with nothing to do was weird. I needed to be busy.

“I started blogging on my website thinking I’d write about  mental health.  

“After one blog everything started to go wonky with my health, and I started to write about cancer.

“That it’s developed into a book has been a total surprise to me, and it feels bizarre.

“It’s just my experiences and I’m not trying to give advice to anyone.

“But if it offers support to someone who reads it, then that would be great.”

The Herald: Wendy's collage art has helped through her cancer diagnosisWendy's collage art has helped through her cancer diagnosis (Image: Wendy Woolfson)

Writing it has been “therapeutic”, she adds.

“I didn’t see my diagnosis coming and it really blew me away. And if I think about the tumour too much, it freaks me out.

“I’m not afraid of dying,” she adds, “I just don’t want to die.”

For details of Wendy Woolfson's book, Journaling a Journey, go to