A few years ago, soon after our triplets were born, I joined an online parenting support forum.
In that forum, I met a woman named Deana. I've written about Deana before. She and her husband, Jack, adopted a little boy and less than two years later, adopted another little boy, born to the same birth mother.
Because Deana lives in San Diego County, we would often toss around the idea of meeting for a play date. But, we'd get busy and time would pass and our get together never came to fruition. Until, last fall when we finally met up at the San Diego Zoo.
Truth be told, I was a little nervous going to meet someone that I had only corresponded with 'online'. For all I knew, Deana was really Dean, a 60-year old man with bad intentions and access to a beautiful adoption story and photos. So, I went to the Zoo with a contingency plan. Charlie was working nearby and said he'd come over if there were any problems and I had an alternate route mapped out to drive home, with lots of twisting and turning roads - where I'd quickly lose anyone that was trying to tail me.
But a phone call to Charlie with the inconspicuous code phrase "Honey, we need more diapers I'm in the reptile house" and extreme minivan driving skills weren't necessary. Because Deana was fully legitimate and we had a great time spending a day together, while our children ran around and played.
Yesterday, I received an e-mail from someone asking if I'd heard about Deana ... asking that I check out the online support forum where we had met (and that I very rarely frequent any more because there just aren't enough hours in the day) ... informing me that Deana needed my support.
"Huh?" I wondered. "What could have possibly happened to Deana since I'd last had any type of correspondence with her ... a few days earlier?"
Nothing could have surprised me more when I logged on to the parenting support forum last night and read that my friend had just been diagnosed with stage IV cancer. A very rare form of cancer that affects 100 people a year in the United States. A very rare form of cancer that is extremely aggressive and has a 70% success rate. A very rare form of cancer that really should stay away from a mother who has two small children and a husband that need her.
Most of the night I was up thinking about how scared my friend and her family must be. To have small children - a husband - plans for the future - and to be hit in the middle of all the goodness that is life with something as horrific as Burkitt's lymphoma has to be extremely frightening.
Today, I felt compelled to do something for this woman that I've known through the computer, and met face-to-face, only once. So, this afternoon we loaded up the car with all the children and we drove north, stopping at a few stores along the way so I could put together a gift bag. And then, while Charlie sat in the car with the children - before we went for a hike along the beautiful sandstone cliffs of Torrey Pines - I ran in to the hospital and delivered it to Deana. (All the while, wishing that I had picked out the foot massage kit instead of the lavender body wash and lotion because if I was going to be in the hospital for 2 to 4 weeks, I'd love a foot rub or two. But then again, I always second guess any gift that I select, so why should this be any different?)
Deana didn't know who I was at first considering it had been almost a year since we last saw each other. I visited for less than five minutes because I didn't want to impose on the quiet time Deana was having with her family and I didn't want to leave my husband in the car with four children half of whom were screaming as I walked away because they desperately wanted to go see my "fwiend".
But I wish I could have stayed longer. If for no other reason to explain that journaling is so important to me, and I hope that the journal I added to the gift bag might help her to channel some thoughts. And the nail file and nail brush I added were something that I had picked out because I remember she had left me a comment several months ago that she wanted to stop biting her nails and maybe if they were filed, that might help. Or maybe not. Because I file my nails and still manage to bite them. But maybe she'll be different. And the Jolly Ranchers are because I've heard that hard candy can really help during chemo. And the peanut M&M's are because ... does that really need an explanation coming from me?
What I noticed in the short time I was there, is that Deana - who was receiving her first round of chemo - was surrounded by her family. Her husband, her mother, her father. Those who love her most in the world were by her side. And later, I was thinking about the people who were at her home, caring for her children - and will continue to do so, while Deana heals. And then there are the scores of people from the online parenting forum that are sending her balloons and cards and helping to set up meals, and holding her in their hearts ... constantly.
There are so many people that are coming forth to support this beautiful woman. Deana is facing one of the greatest challenges in her lifetime, yet it makes me weep just thinking of how blessed and lucky she is by the abundance of love in her life.
Deana's job in all of this is to get well. It is my job to pray that she does. And then, we will go to the Zoo again.
This time, without a well rehearsed exit-strategy in place.