Tumor discovery gives business owner new outlook on life
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — “If I was going to die today, would I go to Hell or to paradise?”
That’s the question that ran through Luca Papini’s mind shortly after learning the seizures he’d been having were a sign of something much more serious — a brain tumor that would require surgery.
“You are faced with this question,” the 40-year-old Sioux Falls business owner said. “I’ve got two kids, a wife, a business. I love life, but I’m like ‘I might die.’ Literally.”
But, he said, through his tears he realized that wasn’t the question he needed to be asking.
“The real question here,” he told the Argus Leader, “is how am I going to live this moment?”
The moment hasn’t been an easy one. The seizures mean Papini is unable to drive to his second job, which supplements the income from Luca’s Italian Leather Boutique.
Since 2014, his business has grown from the trunk of his car to a well-trafficked downtown Sioux Falls storefront, but Papini says “it’s paying the bills but not much else.” (A partner he’s worked with will be running Luca’s until Papini returns, he said.)
He had relied heavily on his part-time job to pay for daycare, a necessity for Giacomo and Aria, his two children with wife Sheri Papini.
Both of them say they have a hard time asking for help in any situation, but Luca was convinced to make a GoFundMe page asking for $16,000 to pay for daycare and part of the medical bills.
After five days, the fundraiser was halfway to its goal.
“It’s been successful beyond my expectations,” Luca said. “I was shocked in many ways by the support of people that I’d in some cases never met.”
Friends and family responded, of course, but so did friends from high school and college he hasn’t spoken to in years. It wasn’t only money, he said. There were prayers, offers to run errands, people simply asking what they could do to help.
“It’s almost like you can’t describe that feeling,” Luca said. “And it’s not the money. It’s the passion.”
These past few weeks, he said, have given him “such a huge desire to make a difference in the lives of others, because so many have made a difference in mine.”
The experience has made him look at his life and how he’s living it in a new light, he said.
“The more I allowed myself to be in front of this, even if it was a dramatic situation, the more I started to feel at peace,” he said. “This opportunity is a bigger opportunity to realize how beautiful life is.”
Finding support in family and the community
It’s an attitude that his wife, Sheri, didn’t originally share at first. Throughout their nine years together, she said, she can be the pessimist in the relationship.
But, she said, “When you’re around someone like Luca it’s hard not to come around to a different way of thinking.”
She and Luca are very different, she said, but a strong faith is something that they share. They met on CatholicMatch.com, and their first conversations centered around what their faith meant to them.
Their connection was strong. After a week of talking online, Sheri was asking her aunt and uncle, who got married after a month of knowing each other, how’d they’d known it was right.
But she still wasn’t expecting when, a day after they’d first met in person, Luca proposed to her.
“It was still pretty surprising,” she said. “But at the same time there was a certainty there that had never been there with anyone else.” Six months later, they were married.
It hasn’t all been easy, of course — when talking about the kind of attitude it took for Luca to move his store from the trunk of a car to a downtown boutique, Sheri chuckles and adds that another important component was “a wife willing to support you.”
But she did, of course. “He’s the most real, genuine person I’ve ever met,” she said. “He makes you want to be a better person.”
So while it’s still been overwhelming, she said, she’s coming to terms with the fact that they need to ask for help.
“I’m not sure what makes us any more deserving of this than the homeless guy across the street,” Sheri said. “But at the same time I want to be open to what’s available. I don’t want this to be a negative experience for my kids. Both Luca and I are learning and growing from it, and I hope our kids will too.”
“If, God forbid,” she adds, “something happens to Luca, I know our kids will have his legacy through not just me but this community of people that is now our family.”
And even with a surgery planned for Oct. 7, that community is what Luca is focusing on.
“There are some pretty awesome people out there,” he said. “And not just because they gave me $25. Because they want me to be good. They want my family to be good.”
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com