You know that feeling you get when you meet someone who just touches your heart? Many of us are fortunate to meet a few people like this in our lifetimes. A spouse, a bestie (<3 TH!!), a boon companion, someone who just gets you on many levels. The sensation of depending on that person for moral support, sharing hilarious moments, trading silly gifts and cards because you saw something at 9:37 p.m. at the drugstore while on a beer-and-tampon-run and you just had to get it. Sometimes the best part is their reaction to these random interjections into life. One of my favorite things to do when shopping with my bestie is to pick out inappropriate outfits and completely seriously ask her opinion, because I know every time she is going to laugh and roll her eyes at me.
Just imagine if you met a whole group of people like this. There are lots of places for moms to meet up – MOPS, church groups, PTA moms, sports moms, etc. and dads have lots of similar venues. The parents all bond over some shared aspect of life and from that, you build a group of friends you can count on to share life’s victories and sorrows, the mundane and the spectacular. Support from like minded people – whether it be at an AA meeting or friends from college – I believe, is crucial for humans to feel connected, balanced, and whole.
Now imagine that you met this wonderful group of people online. These days, it isn’t so far fetched as it used to be. When I was first on the internet, it seemed unlikely that I would actually connect with people in such a way as to think of them as *actual* people. They were user names that sometimes made me laugh and cry. Years later, I would meet the man of my dreams through an online dating website, so I knew there were real people behind those names and many of them were a lot like me – looking for connections in a society that can make it difficult to meaningfully connect with others.
When I was pregnant with Melody 9 years ago, I was looking for an online support group. After trying several that were highly recommended, I found one at an unlikely site – babyfit.com. I am not a health nut. I do not run marathons. I am not really the poster child for a super healthy adult, so a fitness website seemed like a stretch for like minded people. I took a chance though, and joined the due date club February 2007. Our early posts tracked our progress in our pregnancies. As we faced the challenges of gestational diabetes, scary ultrasounds, and hormonal mood swings, it became easy to talk about marital issues, personal triumphs at work, the achievements of older children, the fears of some of our military mamas…we bonded over the pregnancies, but became friends over everything else.
Years passed and we moved our group to Facebook. Suddenly those anonymous screen names became real names, real people, with lots of dimensions! We planned meet ups, talked on the phone, Skyped, texted….we became 2D friends. I have had the pleasure of meeting many of these women in person. They are more than just the women from my due date club. I check in on them daily, have daily conversations with many of them, dream of meeting many more. We are what I recently described as an “international group of crazy people” who love each other fiercely, madly, deeply and whole heartedly. For 9 years now, we have been a force of nature, 60-some women making our ways in life with the full knowledge that no matter what happens, we have 60-some girlfriends to back us up, prop us up and cheer us on. We have weathered the death of a child, ugly divorces, cheating husbands, and painful betrayals, but we continue to be strong somehow, bringing love and friendship every day.
This is getting long, I’ll try to get to the point, but it’s painful and I don’t really want to.
About two years ago, one of my friends was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her name is Claire. At the time, she was given chemotherapy and radiation treatment. We pulled our jaws off the floor and united in supporting her. One of our husbands created a logo for our group. One of our women wrote an amazing poem about the strength of our bond. Many of us created quilt squares which were put together by another member, then shipped to England where Claire lives, and she was able to wrap herself in a virtual hug from all of us around the world as she struggled through the difficulties of her treatments. We fundraised so her family would not have to worry about groceries, clothing, holiday gifts, whatever. At that moment, we became the 60-woman family behind that small unit of 6 people in England. She named her tumor Mo and we all chanted “Mo is going down.” We changed our Facebook profile photos to our logo to show her visually how much we support her. And, after her treatments revealed that Mo was gone, caput, shrunk so small as to be undetectable, we rejoiced! Claire had done it and we had played a tiny part! The power of friendship carried us over into a sense of invincibility. We said “fight like a girl!” and she got that shit done!
Recently, however, she has been feeling pain in her back, lower abdomen, and other places. She’s been bugging her doctor about it and they finally set up a CT scan to see what is happening inside. It isn’t pretty. Mo is gone, yes, but his cousin is in her abdomen pressing on her kidneys, and his son is in her lymph nodes. Because of the placement of the mass in her abdomen, it is inoperable. Because cancer cells in the lymph nodes opens the door for the cells to travel through the whole body, the prognosis is grim. I have not seen my group go so shocked before. For a moment of stunned silence, there was a collectively stopped heart. It is hard to describe what that feels like when you realize it is happening in many time zones across the Earth.
And then, then this force of nature, this international group of crazy people, we all sprung into action. We have been brainstorming how we can help, because honestly when you live 5000 or more miles away, there is no popping over to help with the laundry or taking the kiddies out so Claire can rest, but it is in our very nature to want to help. We are all moms, you see, and we kiss skinned knees and soothe hurt feelings when friends say something mean. We decided that the way we can help right off the bat is to make it so the “Redfraggle” family (their cute nickname for themselves) can concentrate on being together, making memories that will last forever, and not have to worry financially. Do they want to take the kids out for ice cream at 11:30 Tuesday morning? So be it! Shall they go on a driving trip to their favorite place? Off you go. But we aren’t made of money either. If we all pitch in together, maybe we can make those memories easier to happen.
We have started a YouCaring page. YouCaring is different from GoFundMe or other crowdfunding sites because they only charge the processing fee (rather than other sites that take up to 10% of the donation amount in fees) and they allow international currency. Because we have people in France, England, Australia, South Africa, Japan, America and Canada, we really need an international program! :-) perhaps you might like to help a little bit, too. It doesn’t need to be much, that is the beauty of crowdfunding – if 100 people gave $5, pretty soon we’d have $500. I hope that this essay has not been so long you have stopped reading. It is very difficult to convey just how much this special lady means to our group, and to me personally. Her son and my daughter were born on the same day. We are the same age. We have had similar struggles in life but still manage to come out with a smile and a laugh for others. She is kind and caring, with a beautiful spirit that is uplifting and warm. She is my friend and not enough people in the world have had the opportunity to be blessed with meeting her.
If you feel so moved, please click the group logo below to jump over to the YouCaring site and make a donation. It will mean four children will have their mother with them a bit longer and a man will have the love of his life by his side at night. Thank you.