A few weeks ago I heard a woman in our town had breast cancer but since her children aren't in the same grade as my children I didn't know who she was. We have some mutual friends which I discovered when I looked her up on Facebook.
Here's what else I discovered.
This mom was really, really pretty.
If her ripped arms were any indication, she works out regularly.
She has lots of friends.
And most impactful, to me:
She is a single mom to three young children.
Breast cancer is not supposed to happen to someone like her. It's supposed to happen to someone else. Someone we all don't know. Someone who doesn't live a few streets away. Someone who is old. Someone who smokes, per say. Or eats nothing but pork rinds, guzzles beer all the time and lays around on the couch. It's certainly not supposed to happen in our small town to an otherwise healthy, young, lovely mother of three. Didn't God get that memo? Seriously, W.T.F.?
People started posting pink ribbons as their profile pictures on FB. Photos of her friends in pink shirts started popping up, reminding all of us that no one fights alone. Her child's class did a special program to let her know of their support and encouragement.
At times, I hear people criticizing the drawback of living in a small town, where everyone knows your biz. But this closeness is also one of the great advantages -- if people know you have something going on, they can help. I began keeping this mom in my prayers so I figured I might as well friend her on Facebook. Friending someone I've never spoke to in real life was a huge step for me, since I've never done that before. Miraculously, I must have looked fairly normal because she accepted my friendship.
A week or two later, I came face-to-face with her at our annual PTO auction by the Platinum prize section and recognized her right away. I was so happy to meet her. Luckily I had only had two glasses of wine and could communicate what I wanted to say which was "I don't know you but I'm with you. I'm praying for you. You're A HUGE inspiration." I hoped it was that cohesive. I may have squealed like I was meeting Taylor Swift. But she didn't edge away towards the bar so maybe I did okay. What I meant to say was "I'm incredibly sorry this has happened to you. But you are an amazing person and you have brought this town together." She was so nice. I remember that she listened and spoke to me, (a virtual stranger who approached her to gush) without me worrying she would run off to her friends and go "Who the hec is THAT freak?" And she mentioned a silver lining: that due to her diagnosis, a number of her friends had made appointments for their first mammograms.
As the weeks passed, I watched her via Facebook trying on wigs with her friends. I watched as she shaved her head and donated her hair, her children close at hand. Maybe 10% of the women in the world have the kind of face and bone structure to pull off a shaved head and still look super gorgeous and she is one of them. I watched her hooked up for her first chemo appointment a good friend by her side.
I signed up for her meal train but so beloved is she that the first opening is months away. Thinking she might be sick of all the delicious yet heavy casseroles and zitis surely coming in, I decided to do a French-themed meal with baguettes, cheese, fruits, a salad and napoleons. I wondered if she could drink wine while she's in recovery and figured I'd throw it in anyway and she'd get to it, eventually.
But even though I barely know this mom or her kids, she is present in my mind and heart. She's a mom in my town. She could be me. I could be her. She could be any one of us. And if her fight has taught me anything it's that cancer does not discriminate. And that no one should fight alone. When I think of moms in the past with illnesses they were made to feel ashamed of, or who suffered in silence and isolation, it makes me want to bake Mark Zuckerberg an entire cake. God Bless Facebook!
I cannot imagine what this amazing mom's battle will be like. I cannot imagine the inner-strength this mom warrior will call upon during her fight. But I am sure she will triumph over it. Hoards of people are in her corner, rooting for her, loving her, supporting her. What she is going through is terrible but she will not fight alone.
Below is a great way to show your support.