By Denise Ortuno Neil
It is easy to become hardened by the ugliness that can sometimes come across the internet. There are stories of horrific crimes, people hurting one another and an underlying cynicism that can infect us. But beyond what can be deemed bad about the internet and social media, are stories of miraculous friendship and compassion, tales like the following, about a woman’s friendship for another, and how with the help of the social media giant Facebook, made her friend’s dream come true.
Caroldean Ross met Cheryl LaGue when they were both children growing up in Claremont, California in the 1970’s. Caroldean’s brother Bill and Cheryl’s brother Joey were also friends. At one point Cheryl and Bill had a puppy love romance which in later years evolved into an endearing friendship. The kids would often visit the Coachella Valley together, spending time at Cheryl’s grandparents Joseph and Noonie O’Rourke’s, sprawling date ranch 9 miles past Indio. The Santa Rosa Ranch had been in the family since the 1940’s and was the gathering spot for the family for decades. The kids would spend time on the farm, enjoying the property’s lake and outdoor fun. It was a magical time for them, and beautiful memory to be forever etched in their minds.
The girls grew into women and remained friends throughout their lives. They were involved with one another’s triumphs and disappointments never losing touch through the years. It is because of their bond that they would do anything for each other; it is their treasured friendship that is at the core of this story.
It was a Tuesday when Caroldean found out the news. She was having a challenging day; she had encountered some uncomplimentary comments about herself on a social media site. She was annoyed by the comments and her perception of the internet was less than pleasant. She then got a text from her friend Cheryl, her bad day turned into a devastating one, and her woes about the snarky comments on the internet quickly paled in importance.
Cheryl revealed to Caroldean some recent history beginning with a Dr. visit from increasing abdominal pain last October. Tests and procedures began. She was told she had a small cyst about 6 milimeters in size on her pancreas and that they should keep an eye on it. Extreme pain in mid-January, while in the desert, forced her admission at Eisenhower via ER. Doctors there ran a battery of tests and reached a diagnosis: a very aggressive form of Pancreatic Cancer in late stage. The tumor had now grown to 35 milimeters in just a little over 3 months. The treatment prospects are poor and her life expectancy may be only a few months. It was news no one was prepared for or could understand. Cheryl’s words lingered heavy in the air as Caroldean realized the gravity of them. How could it be? Why her she questioned? She asked her friend in peril what she would do, if she would pursue chemo or not…Cheryl said that she needed to think about it.
Pancreatic Cancer is known as the “silent” disease. It is coined as such because the disease doesn’t produce early symptoms thus making detection difficult. The difficulty in detection is in part because the pancreas is deep inside the body and doctors are unable to feel for a tumor, only being able to search for it through an ultrasound or CT Scan. It strikes with stealth strength, only making it known when it is often too late. The causes for the disease are hard to determine, and according to the American Cancer Society, prevention is evasive at best. The best way to prevent this form of cancer are parallel with the same guidelines as most cancers. A healthy lifestyle laced with exercise, and free from smoking cigarettes and drinking excess alcohol as well as a plant based diet which eludes processed and red meats are suggested. But most importantly, smoking seems to be the main culprit. People who smoke are 20% to 30% more likely to get Pancreatic Cancer than non-smokers. However, not all Pancreatic Cancer patients may encounter these risk factors. Elements such as genetics may be a reason. The studies continue around the world medical community as they try desperately to find answers about the disease. The best prevention is if you feel sick in anyway, get checked out and don’t be afraid to ask questions…get a CT scan if necessary, there is no room for being anything less than a squeaky wheel.
Cheryl had always wanted to go to Hawaii, part of her Bucket List but never got the chance. Caroldean quickly put her friends wish into action without hesitation. She reached out to the very internet that had troubled her the day just before she heard her friend’s heart shattering words.
Caroldean went to her Facebook community, regaling her story about her friend. The comments and concerns came streaming through. People she didn’t even have close attachment to stepped up to the plate offering everything from airline miles to get her a ticket, to accommodations and money. Within 24hrs the fund for Cheryl had reached an amazing $5,000. “It’s incredible how much people want to give,” said Caroldean.
For Caroldean, cancer has been touching her life more than most could ever imagine. Her brother passed away from leukemia and her sister from breast cancer as well as her mother who also suffered from breast cancer in which she remains in remission from.
Because of Caroldean’s efforts and the benevolence of her Facebook community, she has of today raised over $8,200 for Cheryl’s trip to Hawaii. Cheryl along with her daughter Jessica and her caregiver Jack will leave for a six day trip to Kauai on February 23rd. Cheryl is unbelievably grateful for what people have done for her, “I am absolutely overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of everyone, especially the people who don’t even know me personally. The fact that friends of friends have reached out to help without question is something I had not expected but really appreciate. I cannot possibly show my gratitude enough,” said Cheryl.
It is true that the internet can sometimes be a cold place, but the story of Caroldean and Cheryl prove that the very vast and daunting world of the web and social media can be used to enhance lives and be a beacon for the love and humanity that exists in all of us.
A Village was formed via social media and they dubbed it CherylVille. The village elected a “Mayor” — they know her as Caroldean Ross. The spirit of CherylVille symbolically constructed a monument of goodwill and inspiration to us all.
Born from this experience… Caroldean and friends are in the process of forming a new 501-3c … “We saw how much the small efforts of many lifted the spirits of one… CherylVille will live on through our new charity “charity godmother”… A “dream grantor” organization that will work toward providing bucket list dreams for people diagnosed with terminal cancers,” shared Caroldean.
For more information on Pancreatic Cancer visit www.cancer.org.
To take part in Cheryl’s Bucket List Wish go to www.youcaring.com/mission-trip-fundraiser/cheryl-s-hawaiian-fantasy/137611/update/126563 where you can still donate money.