What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by Cynthia.
Like most mothers of young children I eagerly look forward to those rare times when I can get out of the house for a Girls’ Night Out. One night in March 2010 Charlotte, a good friend of mine, was having a GNO for a pre-St. Patrick’s Day party. Mostly it was a good excuse to chat and laugh without my boys in tow and remember the part of me that doesn’t have to wipe noses or bottoms or clean up a zillion little messes a day. That was really all that was on my mind.
I knew Charlotte had been having some health problems but wasn’t too worried about it. That is until she told us that night that she had Clear Cell something, something Carcinoma. Truthfully I didn’t register anything at all except for the word carcinoma. Then I thought but she looks so healthy, she’s tough, she runs a freaking 5k most days of the week, and is the strongest and healthiest person I know, she’s going to beat this.
The days and weeks rolled by and her struggle to get health care became more real. You see unfortunately she and her family fall into an area that so many people do these days; they make just a little bit too much money to qualify for state medical aide, have no employer offered insurance and can't afford the premiums of private health insurance.
Sometime in April she had a scan that showed the size of the cancerous tumor. It was in one spot and was smaller than a nickel. It could be easily removed and completely eradicated by surgery. The killer for me was to realize that the hospital did not care and was not willing to schedule the surgery until she had some form of payment in place. She and her husband were willing to refinance their home or do whatever they needed to but the hospital wouldn’t even tell her an amount. It was so frustrating to be on the outside of this and not be able to do anything useful for her. I could bring her dinner, watch her kids, pick up something for her at the store but I was so helpless to do anything about getting her the health care that she needed.
In May another friend sent out handcrafted friendship bracelets for us to all wear as a sign of our love and support for Charlotte. Many of us that she sent them to changed our profile pictures on Facebook to us wearing the bracelets. The gears in our mind started turning, what could we do? We prayed. I prayed like I’ve only done when one of my boys have been really ill or after the earthquake in Haiti.
Finally in late May she had a down payment amount for the surgery. It was huge. It was frighteningly unreachable. But it got us all thinking, what could we do? We started a private group on Facebook to brainstorm ideas. On faith and her parent’s credit card she had the surgery in early June. We began planning a yard sale; something quick and easy, something to give her some hope that she would not be paying off this surgery for the rest of her life. At the end of the day we had collected over $2100 in donations. We felt elated and hopeful. Our relief quickly turned to dread when she told us that the cancer had spread to her lymphatic system. This means radiation 5 days a week and chemotherapy and more money.
I can’t think about the possibility of losing her. I can’t. I need her. She stood by me through discovering that my boys were being abused by a family member and the ensuing court dates and therapy sessions, though severe post partum depression—twice, discovering one of my boys had a rare genetic disease, and just the daily ups and downs of life.
Charlotte’s boys and my boys are playmates. It has been so hard helping them to understand what is going on and why so much of mommy’s time is put into making calls, sending emails and having meetings. I want them to understand but I don’t want them to be afraid or worry. My oldest son, Samuel, asked me the other day “Why are we having so many play-dates with G and C?” He says, “Not that I mind or anything but we don’t usually play so much for so long.” Then I had to explain to him about Chemotherapy. I had to explain to my 9 year old about chemotherapy!!! I still can’t believe that. Then hope he wouldn’t say something that would cause his friends more hurt and fear for their mother. How do I find that fine line? I don’t know.
I have to do something and this feels at least like I’m physically doing something because I love her and I can’t lose her. Neither can her young boys or her husband. Several friends who feel just as strongly about helping Charlotte as I do have formed a group called “Lottes of Love”. We are organizing benefit events in the hope of helping to cover some of her medical costs. None of us have ever done anything like this before. We are just pooling our skills and doing the best we can. Our group is made up of a teacher, interpreter for the deaf, graphic designer, professional voice over artist, a couple PTA presidents, an accountant, stay at home moms, a couple photographers, and several with newborns all dedicated to helping in whatever way we can.
Most days I feel really hopeful about what we are doing. I think we are going to rock this fund raising adventure out of the park, get her all the money she needs and have more left over to help someone else. Then there are days like today where I run into nothing but road blocks and advertisers that tell me $3000 is their discounted price to send out an ad to a small geographical region, venues who wish they could support us but just don’t want to set a precedent, church leaders who are afraid that if they help us help Charlotte that every member who has health problems will expect the same and so turn us away, and a well meaning neighbor who says I’m wasting my time and energy and should put my efforts elsewhere.
But then I think about who Charlotte is and all the amazing women who are working together and remember that we made over TWO-THOUSAND DOLLARS in a couple of hours at a yard sale and I know that I can’t lose hope. Then I turn my mind to thinking about what else I can do to make sure we succeed. Because Charlotte is worth all I can do and failure is not an option.
Find out more about Lottes of Love here.