Juggling life through a bi-polar lens. Sometimes up, sometimes down. Mostly trying to tread water in the middle. Creating a likeness to a normal life. Whatever "normal" is...

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A dear friend

This is a long post, but one of the most important I've written, I think. One that marks something big in my life. If you do have time to sit and read it, thank you..........


I first got online in 2000.
Back then there were no blogs and few 'forums' as we know them now. In fact I didn't have much to do with the internet at all in those days. I stuck to email, and what we did have back then was newsgroups. These were like a message board, but not on a website. You joined the newsgroup and any messages you emailed to it went to everyone else in the group. These came out as a page of postings. It sounds a little archaic now, come to think of it!

Well I joined a newsgroup set up for people with depression. Most of the groups started with the prefix 'alt.' but for some reason this one started with 'alc.' which I did't even notice for a while, but I think it was a joke from someone somewhere, meaning we were a bit tipsy :) because of the strange name- 'alc.suicide' not many people found or joined it. We had about a dozen members from over the world, and we all seemed to share the same sense of humour. I would log on in the evening and spend hours in stitches sometimes.

Some members were very strong, others weren't. Some 'lurked', which was the term for someone who read but rarely posted.

We all had a history of depression in common. When one of us crashlanded the rest of us rallied round and supported them. There is much to be said for the intimacy of a smaller cyberspace!

In time lots of us moved on. I don't know what happened to the newsgroup. It continues for a while via a website, but I don't know how long it survived.

A few weeks ago I went searching for it. After hours, I found some of it saved in old cached pages. I was able to read 6 months of conversational threads from 2000. It took time to recognise some of the names but soon the in-jokes were back. It was very odd to read things that I had posted. It no longer sounded like my voice. I must have changed a lot. It was a very, very eerie experience to come across these old threads still out there, like disembodied ghost voices from my past.

And there there was Donna.

Donna lives in Missouri and I met her through this newsgroup. We started to email each other outside of the group as we got on so well. Donna has MS and sometimes wasn't able to get out of bed. Other times she'd be up but still only had the computer for communication with the outside world. She loves animals and her husband, John, is a vet who brings home anything he takes pity on. This meant that at one point they had about 14 dogs.

Over the years Donna has had some really scary times, like when she lost her sight for a few days and no one knew if it would come back.

We stayed in touch via MSN Messanger- conversations that lasted hours- and then email. She helped me when Luvbug went away to Ecuador and I didn't know if we'd ever be together- heartbreaking. She helped me through very black depression and worries and helped me make decisions when I needed to.

I've tried to help too, through some difficult times that her family went through, and through the various ups and downs of illness.

Lately we haven't emailed as often as before, just updates, rather than daily contact.

The latest update is devastating. She has been diagnosed with leukaemia and has been told she may have 6 months.

We always thought we would meet up, just took it for granted. Now it seems that would never happen.

Last night Luvbug and I tried to hatch a plan. He could stay here and look after mum and Scooter, I could fly over to Missouri on a Friday, stay the weekend, return Monday... a long way for a short trip, but mum reacts badly to change of routine, and at least me and Donna would finally meet.

The more I thought of it, the more I wanted this to be possible. And I'm convinced that if I don't at least try this I'll always regret it. When the reality set in, the long journey on my own, the strangers, the distance, I started to feel panicky. But I went to Australia on my own when I was 19, and I just have to take a deep breath, 'gird up my loins' (!) and be as brave as that pushy teenager I once was.

Now over to Donna. I asked her what she thought about it, and also which airport was nearest! (Kansas, apparently.) She said she is jumping with excitement and can't wait. It will depend on how well she is after her next chemo in a few weeks. She hopes she is up to it. So do I.

I told her don't worry, I'll get there somehow. And I told her to stop bouncing, that just can't be good for her!

*** **** ***** *** **** *****

Seriously, anyone out there lived through losing a friend? I've lost friends, but only been told they've gone after they've gone. I haven't been *through* the leaving part before, the goodbye. If you've been there, I'd appreciate some advice. Other than trying to be strong for her and smile, I don't really know what else I should do.

This is where people with faith have an advantage over those of us that don't- we don't really know what to do at this point. In a past life I'd be praying and having Mass said for her. Now I think I might plant a tree....

12 comments:

Found art blog said...

this kinda reminds me of a friend of mine who I "met" online thru a yahoo mail art group - similar to what you described but different subject! She was living with breast cancer at the time butjust over two years ago, went downhill fast and lost the battle. One thing I wished was that I'd been able to meet up with her before she went - I can only say to you that if your gut instinct says to go visit, then go visit. Don't worry about being "you", she already gets all that. And good luck to you!

Found art blog said...

Oh, and if you're going "Just for the weekend", try and go hand baggage only (saves times getting through the airport the other end). As for US immigration, smile and tell the truth!!! If you need a small trolley case, I have one you can borrow!!!!

MorningAJ said...

Go. Because you will never have another opportunity. Ask her what she needs from you. Chances are it's just to do normal stuff and talk about normal stuff.

I lost a friend to cancer a couple of years ago. I'd lost touch with him for a long time and rediscovered him just in time to find out he had lung cancer.

He didn't mind talking about it (and how the chemo made him feel and all of that sort of stuff) but he didn't want sad or sympathy. Just 'normal'.

And I second Found Art... smile at the border staff, but don't make any kind of joke about anything

Angel and Kirby said...

Loosing a friend is different than loosing a parent or sibling. Keep it light and upbeat. Let her set the tone for the rest. Planting a tree is a great way to remember her. It dose not matter how close or if you have ever met, she is still a valued friend.

Sandi McBride said...

I so hope you make it to Missouri, Helena...and yes, I have lost more than one friend, the most devastating my cousin Kay 6 years ago due to a traffic accident...she is the Kay in my last post. It is hard to get through, but get through you do. That door is never completely closed, as long as memory keeps a wedge in...keep us posted!!!
hugs
Sandi

Julie said...

I've been there too Helena and I would agree with everyone that normal is the way to be. I lost a very dear friend a couple of years ago. We had shared a lot of art and still shared many laughs up to the end. Barbara didn't want fawning sympathy but she did appreciate understanding. I still miss her but I remember her enthusiasm and the excitement we shared with our art.

Blue said...

I delayed commenting here as hit a cord.
Last year a friend made in blogland who I'd been fortunate enough to meet on several occasions was diagnosed with cancer. I thought re my move we'd see lots more of each other but it wasn't to be.
Go see your friend if you possibly can.

roughseasinthemed said...

Difficult call.

One of my university friends died aged 38 or something. Bit of a shock, but I didn't know if he was even ill.

And then a couple of years ago, I met up with an internet person who was dying. I didn't know her well, but she was lovely. No bitterness about life or death, just calm and serene. I am pleased we went to meet her.

We talked about driving, about work, about not having children, or having them, about holidays. Just normal stuff.

If you get to see your friend great. If you don't, I don't think she will value you any less after the friendship you have shared.

roughseasinthemed said...

Difficult call.

One of my university friends died aged 38 or something. Bit of a shock, but I didn't know if he was even ill.

And then a couple of years ago, I met up with an internet person who was dying. I didn't know her well, but she was lovely. No bitterness about life or death, just calm and serene. I am pleased we went to meet her.

We talked about driving, about work, about not having children, or having them, about holidays. Just normal stuff.

If you get to see your friend great. If you don't, I don't think she will value you any less after the friendship you have shared.

Dragonstar said...

It's a difficult decision for you, but go and see her if you are both up to it. Be prepared for the exhaustion and inevitable slump when you get home, but enjoy every moment of your visit with her. As others have said, this is the last chance. I wish I'd been able to do the same thing in similar circumstances.
Good luck to you ((hugs))

Timaree said...

I have only lost family but when we all gathered to be with my dad when he'd been diagnosed with brain cancer and told he was lucky to get 6 weeks we acted as normal as possible following his lead. He didn't want to talk about dyi g so we didn't but with only 6 weeks he didn't really have time to even process the idea (he actually only had two weeks before slipping into a coma). Hopefully your friend will have the time to adjust. As one priest said, we are living right up till we die rather than dying till we die so enjoy each other the best you can while you can. You may no longer believe in an afterlife but you can't be absolutely sure so what the heck, send up some thoughts and prayers just in case if you want. Hope you get to make the trip.

Feronia said...

Beautiful post, Helena. There are special bonds to be made here in cyberspace. Plant a tree - that's really lovely. I hope you do get 'across the pond' to see Donna.