Everyone, meet Dana.

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Before Little Bee was born, I joined a Babycentre group for women expecting babies in fall 2012. After a couple of months, a bunch of us went rogue and started a Facebook group where we were free to be a bit more… ehem… colourful, with our posts.  I mentioned it as one of my Good Things last week.

Over the last two years or so, we have created a tight-knit community of women who ask about and discuss everything you could possibly imagine regarding babies, motherhood, relationships… and just, life, really.

There have been some pretty spectacularly hilarious things disclosed within this group that I, for one, could not even imagine attempting to bring up anywhere else in my daily life.  I’ve asked embarrassing questions that I couldn’t find satisfactory answers for in any book or on any site, told stories and anecdotes, offered my two cents and been involved in heated debates.

Nothing is off limits, everyone is respectful, and life just flows from our fingertips onto the page.  These women, from all over the country, are spirited, intelligent, hilarious, caring… and REAL.  It’s one of the best things that has happened to me since finding out I was going to be a mama.

But unfortunately, in a group with as many members as we have, you’re bound to hear some pretty shitty news once in a while.

Which unfortunately, is where Dana comes in.

*****

Dana is a country girl, through-and-through.  Raised in rural British Colombia, she grew-up surrounded by the greatest beauty this country has to offer and all of the adventurous activities that go along with it.  She is the happiest outside with the wind and the sun on her face – whether it’s snowboarding, ATVing, hiking, biking… if it’s done outdoors, she loves to do it.

She met her fiancé, Brad, in the typical girl-dumps-boy-goes-to-eat-alone-but-meets-future-husband-instead story.  Their desire to start a family was stronger than rushing into a wedding, so after nearly a year of trying, Dana became pregnant with their little girl, M (out of respect I won’t use her full name here).

During her pregnancy, however, Dana found out she had cancer.

A small, seemingly insignificant bump on her hand proved to be Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare malignant tumor of the muscles that are attached to the bones.  It is usually found in children with only a few hundred cases reported in the US each year.

Dana, obviously putting the health and well-being of her baby first, waited until M was born before undergoing aggressive chemo and radiation treatment to shrink the shit out of the tumour.

Still, the prognosis was not good:  1 – 2 years, her doctor told her….

From Dana’s “Reflection“, posted a year after her diagnosis:  “1-2 years, 1-2years, holy fuck 1-2 years. One year has gone by and all I have experienced is improvement….”

*****

Now here we are, a year and a half later, and Dana is still the kick-ass, hilarious, positive person we in the group have always known her to be.

Over that time, she has moaned to us maybe three times.  If that.  I actually can’t remember a time in recent memory where she’s complained about what she’s going through… well, except for just recently when, after discovering a clot in the catheter used to administer her chemo, she had to go back to the hospital for surgery to fix it. And she complained about the food.

The FOOD!

Not the pain, not the annoyance, not the fact that she has CANCER, not the nurses being unable to find a vein to administer the IV… THE FOOD!

(Not to worry, though.  She was able to swipe some Mrs. Dash from the staff room to make it edible.)

This is the woman Dana is.  She gives the details without any moaning, and maintains a humorous flair that makes me laugh and cry all at the same time.

With her permission, here are some of the soundbites she’s given us since her diagnosis:

  • “I’m home sweet home. Treatment went well. I’m tired but feeling good!”
  • “It was discovered I had 2 small tumours on my brain. They were ‘superficial’ but cancerous.  Superficial just means they were on the surface and would be easy to operate on.  And so they did….I recovered very fast from it. I was out of the hospital earlier than expected and hosting M’s first birthday a little more than a week later!”
  • “I have to do daily blood thinner injections in my stomach which I’m definitely not a fan of.  My stomach looks like a bruised up pin cushion. Good thing it’s not bikini season!”
  • “Headed home today! Hopefully everyone’s on the ball and I can get outta here before noon!”
  • On Friday I texted my Dr. and told him I was feeling really fatigued and dizzy. So he sent a req up to the hospital for blood work and told me to go up sometime between then and Monday.  So I of course waited until Monday haha. I got home and received a phone call.
    Me: hello?
    Dr: Dana (stern voice)
    Me: Dr. ____…(sweet voice) what’s up
    Dr: you have no blood
    Me: ok….so transfusion?
    Dr: yup 7:30am
    Me: let’s do this!
  • “I had a CT today of my gigantor boob and my entire chest arms abdomen area. I should find out the results from that tomorrow. “

This last quote leads us to where she is now.

While having the examination done on her “gigantor boob”, the radiologist found some swollen lymph nodes in her armpit.  A biopsy was ordered.

The results showed that her cancer was back, and she immediately had to start undergoing chemo again.  This time, however, she had to travel to Kelowna for the treatment so she could be monitored for bladder bleeding, a possible side effect to the cocktail.  This meant having to leave her husband and baby at home.

She completed the treatment and is now back, but as it happens with partners whose work takes them away,  it’s Brad’s turn to leave, heading north of Fort St. John on January 3rd.

Since he has been the main caregiver for M while Dana recuperates, this poses an obvious problem.  Although still spirited, her energy is lacking enough to make chasing M around a difficult task.  Not to mention running a household.  The real problem, though, is the financial one.  With all the traveling costs – hotels, food, gas, etc. – plus mortgage and car payments, a growing baby, and the cost of the treatment that is saving her life to top it all off, it’s all adding up.

Dana has amazing people in her corner.  Not only are us Facebook ladies here to offer emotional support whenever she needs it, giving her a non-judgemental place to rant and (rarely!) vent, but her friends and family are doing everything in their power to make things as easy and stress-free as possible on her, Brad and M during this tough time.

One of the biggest things that was done recently was the setting up of a Go Fund Me account by close friends in an effort to raise enough donations to keep them comfortable financially, but to also keep Brad home for as long as possible while Dana gets better.

It’s such a simple thing: the desire to help your loved ones while they are sick.  But for Brad, since he is the breadwinner now, that just isn’t possible.  January 3rd is looming – they’re hoping to raise enough to keep him home just that much longer, and they’re getting so close to their goal; anything at all can help them reach it just that much sooner….

*****

I guess this brings me to why I am writing this post.

Dana is inspirational.  Her optimism is contagious, and whenever she posts within the group, unless it’s about cancer I forget she’s even afflicted with it.

Not only does she embody every single positive adjective you can think of, she is also, at the end of the day, a really, really great Mama.

But the reality is that she is still fighting this horrible disease.  And at the end of the day, I… we ALL… want her and her little girl to get what they really deserve:  Brad home.  For as long as possible.

I think about her often.  Sometimes, if I’m at work, I have to run to the bathroom to cry.  Then I get back to my desk and think about her again and don’t even bother running back to the bathroom so just let it out right there.  M and Little Bee were born 2 days apart – I remember being a sleep-deprived, new-Mama zombie head, congratulating Dana and dotting her Facebook announcement with an insane number of exclamation marks when she posted M’s arrival.  Since then, every time she talks about what she’s going through, I can’t help but imagine being in her shoes.

The thought of not being able to run around and dance with Bee… of having to leave her for days on end, then being sick and having to leave her in the care of others… and just not knowing what tomorrow or the next day or the next will hold for my health… it breaks my heart into a million, billion little pieces, and I suddenly can’t breathe.  I’m often confronted with the “what if it were me” thoughts, that I’m sure a lot of other ladies in the group feel, too.

And I know that Dana wouldn’t want me, or anyone, to react this way.  She is grateful for all the help she’s received and had to “take her head out of her ass” to get there, and I’m sure she would tell  everyone who pities her so much to do the same.

I just… I want to help her.  And her family.  As much as I possibly can.

So, I’m presenting you all with the link to the donation site.  You can visit it HERE.  And asking that, if you are able, to show your support, with even just a little.  Because anything will go towards helping the Ranger family on this long, hard road ahead, where nothing is sure of except their love for each other, and their commitment to getting Dana healthy again.

They are optimistic.  We are all optimistic, that this time will be the last time, and that one day soon Dana and Brad can have their dream wedding with M at their side, and live a long, happy life together.

Dana and M

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