“Given a choice, I would have dressed for the occasion. I dressed for every occasion, even nightmares. But this time… I was caught unawares… I was no longer in control.”
Terence never dreamt he would suffer a stroke. After all, didn’t strokes happen only to old people? Terence did not die, he survived. But there is a difference between just surviving and living “magnificently and beautifully”.
A Cry In The Dark tells of Terence’s adventures at living life to the full. He discovers a fascinating world between cracks and crevices, befriends inhabitants in and along the Punggol Waterway. He strides through wide open spaces, down narrow dirt paths and finds home in the most surprising places. He emerges unscathed between rocks and hard places. He learns to soar above the impossible towards endless horizons. He redefines love and life.
Terence’s story may have begun with a cry in the dark. But in the end, he discovers he has much more strength, much more courage, much more in himself than he can ever think or imagine.
This book is written, and illustrated with Terence’s ‘non-functional’ right hand, for someone who is crying in the dark. Because there is always something to laugh about even when one is crying.
A Cry in the Dark: A Stroke Survivor’s Story of Hope and Recovery
1. When did you first realize you wanted to write a book?
It was around September of 2021. Work had become increasingly meaningless and I was again “ruminating on the purpose of my existence”. My stroke was so severe, I should have died but I didn’t. Instead, “I’ve been given a new lease of life. So what am I here for?”
I never thought I would get a stroke. After all, strokes only happened to people in their 70s and 80s. I was too young. But I’ve since found out that more and more younger people are becoming victims of this destructive monster.
I realised I wanted to write a book to raise awareness of this fact — anyone can suffer a stroke. I also want to tell fellow victims, their caregivers and the people who love them, that they are not alone, that there is help and there is hope. Suffering a stroke is not the end of life, but a new beginning. Like me, they have the power to fill the pages of their life with love and light, that miracles do happen.
2. How long did it take you to write A Cry In The Dark?
I started work on the book in December 2021. She did the writing and I took on the challenge of doing the illustrations with my right hand that was “non-functional”. We completed the book towards the end of march 2022.
3. What is the key theme and message in the book?
My story, your story, our stories may begin with a cry in the dark. But it need not stay that way. We have the power to fill the pages of our lives with love and light.
4. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
I learned that it is possible to soar above the impossible. That miracles do happen. No one, not even the doctor in charge of my rehabilitation expected me to be able to do the illustrations. The hand is the hardest to rehabilitate. There is such a complex system of joints and different muscle groups involved in a simple hand movement, that most stroke patients do not regain proper hand function. I did the illustrations for the entire book with my “non functional” right hand.
5. What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
The stroke had affected my memory. The most difficult, frustrating and frightening were the memory lapses. Sometimes, while trying to recount various incidents, I found only “vague feelings and disjointed images”. Sometimes I draw a complete blank. Even photographs did not help.
6. When you’re writing an emotionally draining part, how do you adjust your mood?
Instead of emotionally draining, I found it very healing. Recounting my experiences got rid of shifting shadows, I felt I was exposing everything to the light. The entire process of writing and illustrating the book made me see myself and my challenges from a factual perspective. I realised I had so much to be thankful for, so much to laugh about.
7. Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself?
Yes. I see myself as useful. I still have a lot to give. I am currently working on a project to make rehabilitation more accessible to post-stroke patients, and anyone with neurological issues. GRATEFULSTEPS is a one-stop holistic treatment centre for long term neurological rehabilitation, a place where people can get the help they need to gain a measure of independence and improve their quality of life.
8. What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
There’s always something to laugh about, even when you’re crying.