27 Aug 2012

Angels Are For Real

As a result of the extensive readership of our website, I have made friends and connections all over the world.  In some cases, I've been able to put two followers together to help each other.  However, in what I am about to relate, I needed help...what transpired was full of what could only be described as a series of incredible co-incidences and acts of human kindness.

The story begins this past Friday...upon arriving home from my latest chemo treatment, I received an email informing me that a Sunflower Sister, who has been in communication with me for months, had just been given devastating news of disease progression.  17 months ago she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, then recently breast cancer, and on Friday, her CT scan revealed multiple brain metastases.  This sister (we'll call her Bella) is on a work contract in Ireland - single, no family or social network - and is now dying...alone in a strange country.

The news was sent to me by a teal sister from Georgia, USA.  Shocked and heartbroken by Bella's circumstances, I immediately put out an SOS for help, advice, suggestions.  Here is what happened:

A dear friend from Michigan, USA responded that she has a cousin in Ireland - she then phoned her.  It turned out that her cousin knows of a 74 year old nun who spent her career in the hospice care field - this cousin contacted the nun who very happily said she will visit Bella.  That same cousin then called her aunt, who is a retired palliative care nurse in the city where Bella is hospitalised - she too will visit.

My friend texted Bella directly, introduced herself and offered introductions to specialists in the oncology department at the University of Michigan who are open to distance consultations.
My brother-in-law is a doctor in Canada - born in Ireland - I called him about this tragedy - I was halfway through recounting the details when he interrupted me saying that he actually, personally, knows Bella's doctor!  They are going to put their heads together to see what kind of support is available and initiate it immediately. Serendipitously, his best friend is a breast oncologist in Bella's town - he too, has agreed to call.

I then received an email from my sister-in-law who lives in England.  She informed me that one of her very best friends (who lives in the south of France) has spent her life as a counsellor to the terminally ill - this friend has offered to Skype Bella.

The next day - Saturday - our family celebrated my father's 90th birthday by hosting a surprise party for him.  Having had chemo the day before, I didn't know if I could attend (physically) and, given a totally compromised immune system, whether I should attend.  The decision was easy though,  I wouldn't have missed it for the world!  I got a few sympathetic looks when I arrived.  (I think) I looked awful - had really puffy eyes.  What they couldn't possibly know was that the puffy eyes weren't from chemo but resulted from so many tears on Friday night - tears of joy - over the outpouring of love and compassion by complete strangers to "Bella" for "Bella" - and knowing now, that no matter what, because of their efforts, she will not die alone.