Seng's Story: Facts and Arguments: Smiling at Strangers

Seng's Story: Facts and Arguments: Smiling at Strangers

Dave and I would often comment to each other how lucky we were to not have experienced any major life changing events in our lives. My parents were affected by a war where bombs were falling around them, escaping and leaving everything behind with a baby in their arms. Later I was to be born in a refugee camp. Dave’s mom had a father who drowned when she was young, leaving his Grandma a widow with a young child and twin toddlers. We felt so thankful in life and so appreciative of the life we lived.

In my 37th year, I had left Dave at the emergency room to pick up our kids, he later called me that evening to tell me they had found a brain tumour, the cause of his memory loss, headaches and poor temperature regulation. As I drove to the hospital with uncontrollable sobbing, I knew this was a going to be a major event in our lives. I was not ok with this. Our neighbors took care of our kids for a few nights, this would allow me to cry from 5 am to 7 am, take a hot shower, get composed and pick up the girls to have them ready for school then head off to the hospital to visit Dave. The new reality was so fresh when I woke up. The surgery happened in less than a week. They told us it was a rare and high grade tumour. My heart broke, literally it felt like it broke, I felt pains in my chest. Our girls, they love their daddy. He takes violin lessons with them, skis with them, laughs with them. We are born two weeks apart, we were going to retire at the same time, we talked about it all the time. We rarely argued, we agreed on all things that mattered and are important in life. 
As we navigate through the uncertainty of cancer, it has brought about many moments of not knowing how to react. Dave and I were at the cancer clinic library on a day when there was an information session on melanoma. Head down reading about radiation, I could hear the person running the session tell someone, “well at least it’s melanoma, not a devastating cancer like a brain tumour.” Kinda funny, kinda not! I didn’t know whether to laugh at the timing or scream at the misinformation. A week before I had just met someone who recently lost a spouse, years ago she had melanoma that metastasize to the brain. Melanoma can also be devastating.  
In the past I have heard the phrases, “lump in your throat”, “tightness in your chest”, “shortness of breath”, “heart breaking”, I never thought that someone could feel this all at once but yes these feelings attack me often and all at once. It had never occurred to me before that someone who looks so normal could also feel this. Standing in the grocery line, I probably looked very normal but I felt like my chest was caving in and was on the verge of tears but my groceries were scanned, I paid and moved along. You never now what the person standing next to you is feeling.  It’s hard sometimes but I try to smile at people, strangers. Because you never know, they might need it. 
We had to reassure our younger daughter that the brain tumour was not caused because she accidently bumped his head the one time, nor is it contagious.  She was worried that they had shared a chap stick, and said she “definitely did not want a brain tumour”. Later when I think I have life somewhat put back together, a random question while cooking dinner after work from our oldest daughter makes me weak again, “ You know on your wedding day when you walk down between the chairs? What happens if you don’t have a daddy?” When I think of that conversation, it makes me ache. 
Sometimes, watching my kids at swim class with other parents, I put on headphones, I wonder if they think I’m a snob and rude. When I am having a hard time coping, music helps. A song can say exactly how I feel, City in Colour’s Sleeping Sickness does that, “And now my dreams are nothing like they are meant to be. And I am breaking down, I think I am breaking down. And I am afraid to sleep because of what haunts me, such as, living with the uncertainty, that I will never find the words to say which would completely explain just how I am breaking down.…”. Fortunately I have family and friends that are there in a time of need. They go above and beyond what is needed to be a good friend and it helps me not break down. A hug, a card, a meal, a kind word, time spent with us, all the things that have been done for us, it means so much. This make us still feel so thankful and appreciative in life. I have my girls. And at this moment I have Dave.  If it’s two years, five years, 20 years, I feel lucky for the time we have. 
Thank you Seng for sharing your story.

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