There were four people in the doctor's room. The doctor, myself and Liling who was carrying Georgia. The MRI scans against the light board showed the white mass encroaching my sinus, my right eye and my brain. That white mass is my cancer, ACC.
In the past few years, our strategy had been to do an endoscopic surgery to de-bulk the cancer every time it comes back in the sinus region. It had worked rather well so far as the growth was slow. This time it was obviously different. Innocently, I asked if surgery was still an option. Immediately as the question left my mouth, I knew the answer. N.O.
That was bad news. You see, because ACC is so uncommon, no medical companies had invested in research for a drug to use against it. So, without surgery, my options were very limited. I can't do radiotherapy anymore as I've done it before. I'm left with statistically unproven treatments that could rob my livelihood for whatever time I have left.
Liling teared at the doctor's office. I held back mine.
We used to go to the movies a lot when we were dating, and before the kids came around. Liling used to cry at the movies. I could always smell her tears before I notice her crying and would wipe her tears and smile at her, telling her how endearing she is to be crying because of a movie.
I had never been in tune with my emotions. I don't cry easy. In fact I almost never cried from as long as I can remember until rather recently. I imagine as a child, I had been told not to cry whenever I'm crying. Words like "It's ok, don't cry", "Only girls cry" or plain ol' "STOP IT!" probably accompanied me as a child whenever I cried. The adults who said those words probably didn't know better, and may even had good intentions. They were 'adulting' the way they would have been 'adulted' when they were children. Crying was viewed as a weakness. I imagine this upbringing had a lot to do with me suppressing my feelings as a grown up.
The first time i noticed how difficult it was for me to cry was at my grandfather's funeral. I was not particularly close to him. I visited him twice every year as a child (this is back in Malaysia where we lived about 8 hours away by car from our grandparents) and in his last few years observed him going through dementia. I was even there just a day before his death. He was a skeletal version of his old self, wheezing for air while lying in bed. I felt sad watching him. As they placed the coffin in his grave, everyone around me was crying. I tried. I tried to cry. I was telling myself, 'Come on, at least give me one tear!'. But nothing came out. I could not do it.
Have I ever cried because of my cancer? The first time was after I completed my radiotherapy. I had lost weight, and some hair. I had lost my sense of smell and taste and my throat was dry and sandy. I was feeling miserable, and was dwelling in some self pity. Liling had started work again so I was at home, alone, watching "50/50", a movie where Joseph Gordon Levitt played a young man stricken by cancer. The scene when he was entering surgery, I cried like a baby while hugging my sofa pillow. That was my first real cry for this cancer. I was crying because of self pity.
The second time I cried for this cancer was when I was told that the cancer had spread to the lungs. I remember when I got home from work that day, I just hugged Liling and we both cried. It wasn't an outpour. More like a medium rain that you know was going to stop soon. I was crying because the statistics says that I only have five to ten years.
Back to the doctor's room, I held back my tears because I knew I still had to drive my friend's car back to Labrador Park, pick up Hannah and bring her to a cafe to eat pancakes. I wanted to cry, but was afraid to. I didn't want to. Not yet.
When we reached home, I was lying in bed with Hannah and she asked me how my visit to the doctor was. As I was telling her, I started to tear. Liling hugged me and I could not hold anything back anymore. I cried. I really cried. This time, I was crying out of fear, sadness, and crying out of love.
That night, when it was just Liling and me, I cried as we were discussing our options. "It's good to cry. It's safe to cry here." Liling said to me as she hugged me. That really opened up my emotions. I sobbed, my chest shaking uncontrollably against hers. I could smell her tears.
The next few days was an emotional roller coaster for me. I would cry at the littlest things. Stroking Hannah's hair caused me to tear. Watching her sleep made me cry. Carrying Georgia made me cry. Hugging Liling made me cry. I've never cried so much. I've never had such a safe environment to cry and I've never felt so good crying.
Justin Timberlake would be proud of me crying a river. Ok bad joke but I'm the author and I can write whatever I want.
It's late and I want to go to sleep but I don't want to leave you thinking I'm going to die soon. So I'll reveal that after meeting more doctors, it has been decided that surgery is now an option. It will be a major one but I'll take it.