Dennis’ Note:

Hello everyone. Thank you so much for reading. As you’ve probably guessed, this is not what you were expecting. Me either. Here’s why.

This is the moment Suzie describes as her “most surreal moment.” Being trapped inside your own brain is a hard thing to get your head around. The immediate danger was life-threatening. The shock of that being her future was overwhelming. It’s critical that I get it right.

Although I’ve written a lot of pages, I haven’t managed it yet. It’s all in my head but I haven’t found the words this week. It’s going to take a bit longer. I have to introduce several of the most important people in Suzie’s story and they deserve better.

As I mentioned before, this is a chance for you to look over my shoulder and that means I have to let you see my work – and my lack of it. So, here’s a small piece of what I’ve written this week. My editing program has a red flag saying “Readability: Needs improvement.” Guess that says it all.

Deep breath. Hit publish.


When the dawning sun threads through the tree branches and spotlights the early morning dew with amber, a leaf or blade of grass becomes a glittering jewel. The season’s first glint of snow or a mysterious pea soup fog reveals common-place scenes in a brand new light and we pause for a moment at the wonder of it. The world is a freshly minted coin when viewed through the wide eyes of first love. All is recreated, changed as if never seen before.

The phrase “You have a brain tumor” has that effect.

Your breath catches. Thoughts freeze for a moment, unable to respond. Emotions wash in like an Atlantic storm, unbidden, unwanted. Stuttering pictures flash through your head as your brain reboots and tries to process. Pain and courage battle for control. You wait for the punch-line to the joke. You can almost feel the earth pivot on its axis.

Everything changes.

More specifically, everything has changed. Past tense. History. Over in the space of two words, three syllables – brain tumor. Rushing past like a fast moving train, too massive and unexpected to stop. Too much inertia. Too little warning. Nothing to be done but stand helplessly in the noise by the tracks and feel the earth rumble, watch the cars sway precariously, the lights slipping into darkness as the horn mournfully falls in a moan. The receding wheels clack on steel like a massive clock dispensing with the trivial ticks of your life.


I steadied myself, turned to Suzie and we exchanged a look. It was all we had. If she had been able to talk, there would have been no words – because there are none for a feeling like that, shock like that. It is nameless, incommunicable, except in that look. Though I try, I will not forget it.

Her ever-changing hazel eyes appeared large and dark as a doe’s caught in headlights. I tried, once again, to clumsily reach over the bed rail and hug her, hold her, comfort her – or was it for me.

She doesn’t cry much, or often, or loudly, but tears rolled down her cheeks, wetting my sleeve.

“I’m sorry, Sweetie,” was the best I could come up with. “I love you.”

“I love . . . you!” she stammered purposefully. Shakespeare could have done no better.

Air caught in small spasms as she took a long, deep breath. If ever there was a moment for someone to fall completely apart, to collapse under the weight of emotion, to come understandably unglued, that was it.

She didn’t.

She just breathed.

Was she conserving energy? Preparing to fight? Slipping into a black hole of depression? As I looked into her eyes, I couldn’t know. But I know who she reminded me of. The steely determination of her mother came quietly through. Though she was overwhelmed, it wouldn’t show. I don’t think she ever considered the possibility. It wasn’t heroics. There is no posturing in a moment like that. She wasn’t cold, hard, invincible or indestructible. She was as vulnerable and afraid as I had ever seen her, but not panicked.

Somewhere behind those eyes, unknown to anyone but her, there was a reason. Thinking furiously but unable to speak, hearing clearly but unable to respond, underlying the fear, there was something firm, a purpose. In her eyes was a stubbornness, as if she had a single focus – breathing.

Her thoughts, then and now, remain a mystery as memory slipped away. She could recall nothing after the doctor delivered his report like a gut punch. There was much more to be done, but not for her. She was a passenger, along for the ride, reduced to her essence. She had one job. She kept breathing.