Javier Lim's bravery just has to be told. Here is a nine year old fighting for his life while most children his age are playing Pokémon and having fun at Legoland.
The nightmare began at six when his head would tilt one side while doing his homework. Javier went for a brain scan and his mother was devastated when the doctors told her that they found two tumors in Javier's brain.
It was downhill from there. The first surgery took 8 hours and it was nerve-wrecking for the family. But it was the screams thereafter that broke his parents' heart. Javier recalled, "I was screaming like crazy because my head hurt so much. Having IV drips poking into my skin hurt a lot too."
Javier took weeks to learn how to walk and speak normally again. After that first surgery, the Lim family would never be normal again. Every subsequent year, new tumors the size of marbles would be found in his brain.
Mrs Lim said, "We couldn't believe it when the doctor told us another tumor had popped up in his brain. I just sat there and cried my eyes out. What else could I do?"
The multiple surgeries has already taken its toll on Javier's studies. He may even have to retain Primary 3 next year as he is unable to cope with his studies. The Lims also have a younger daughter, and Mrs Lim said, "I know she sometimes feels jealous because we are always focusing on Javier. I feel really bad about it."
In times like this, the Lims drew strength and encouragement from the generosity of friends and colleagues. Javier's medical bills of $100k are covered by insurance. It reports that "they are grateful for the help from kind-hearted people, including members of the Brain Tumor Society Singapore support group." And Mrs Lim, an assistant teacher, said that her colleagues had "organised a fundraising project to help her family get through a particularly difficult month."
Javier is now embracing himself for the upcoming surgery. Mrs Lim said that "the new tumor has affected the nerves on the right side of his face and his sense of pain. Because of this, he has been over-rubbing his eyes and causing damage to his cornea. The doctor said that if he continues like this, he might lose his eyesight."
All in all, young Javier "has spent a third of his childhood battling multiple brain tumors. His skull has been cut open and stitched up about 10 times to remove the tumors or to fix post-surgery complications." Javier also has a draining tube implanted permanently inside his body and he can no longer engage in physical activities.
Lesson? Just one.
Javier's story is one that every parent with young children can identify with. It is a story of love and hope in the midst of pain and a future unknown. It is also a story of the human spirit and the courage to fight on against all odds.
At times, the furnace of life is unbearable and it makes us all very reluctant heroes. Given a chance, anyone of us parents would say firmly to take this cup of suffering away from us. Give us the worst day at work or the most mind-numbing routine at home, but let this cup pass for we are just not strong enough.
To stand helpless to see your own child who has yet to savor the simple joys of childhood suffer with no end in sight is a torture no parents or child should ever go through. But alas, life has other plans.
Tragedy is however transforming. And if death concentrates the mind fantastically, then tragedy zeroes the heart in on what is truly important in life.
It reports that "having gone through so much in the past few years, Javier's parents said they do not have any expectations and wish only for their son to be happy." Mrs Lim said: "We don't make any plans or ask that he score As in school. We only hope that, one day, he will be tumor-free."
I wish Javier and his parents well. I pray for a miracle. I hope for a full recovery. And the only enduring lesson for me here is to look at my own life, my family and my children, and treasure the time I have with them. Never take anything for granted and love without condition, always.
The reality is, it takes so little to be happy with your family. You just need to be there with them empty handed and with an open heart to enjoy their presence and smiles without expectation. Yet, some of us deliberately put barriers or hoops before us for our children to pass or jump through just so that they may feel our resisting love, encouragement and embrace.
Let me end with this thought. I always believe that each of us are put on this earth to make a difference in the lives of others. And in doing so, we will be pleasantly surprised to discover how our selfless giving eventually makes a greater difference in our own life. Cheerz.