The beauty of Facebook is its ability to dig up gems from your past when you least expect it. One such gem to appear in my Facebook newsfeed is Angela.
When I saw Angela’s face appear on Facebook as a ‘person I might know’, memories of my first year at high school came flooding back. You see, when I started high school Ange was a bit of a guardian angel for me. She probably doesn’t know that…but she was.
My transition into high school didn’t go as well as I had hoped. For some reason my best mate in year six decided over the school holidays that I was no longer worthy of her company, or anyone else in her posse. Consequently, my first few days in high school were confusing, lonely and nerve wracking.
And then along came Angela. With her happy smiling face. Suddenly year seven didn’t seem so bad after all. But like most teenage friends, the tides of life saw us gently drift apart. Until I started to see her Facebook posts about two years ago.
I was intrigued to find out where life had taken Angela. I could see she no longer lived in the town we both went to school and that she had found a life partner and had two children.
But as her updates continued, a terribly sad story started to unravel before my eyes: a story of unthinkable anguish. Angela has faced something that every parent secretly dreads but rarely discusses, preferring to push it back into the deep dark confines of our mind reserved for the unthinkable.
Last year Angela lost her 15-year old daughter Giovanna to ovarian cancer. It took only three months to steal her from Angela’s family. It’s hard to fathom, isn’t it? One minute they were told their daughter and sister, who had shown very little symptoms apart from a bloated stomach, had cancer. Three months later, they were trying to cope with her passing.
Tears have often rolled unchallenged from my eyes, as I’ve read her emotional updates; heart arching words that are often difficult to read as she wrestles to deal with such an incomprehensible and sudden loss.
But recently I have seen hope. Faint glimmers of light shining from a dark place.
While Angela’s Facebook updates are still heartbreakingly sad, there is a renewed sense of determination to somehow make sense of her enormous loss. That Giovanna will continue to live on in the work Angela is now throwing herself into through ‘Giovanna’s Gift’.
Giovanna’s Gift is the culmination of initiatives to help children with life threatening illnesses and their families. From collecting donated iTunes vouchers for children undergoing lengthy stays in hospital, to helping Albury’s Ronald McDonald House get their hands on jumpsuits for their visiting premature babies, to organizing a bunch of people to participate in The Weekend to End Women’s Cancer, a 60-kilometre walk through the neighbourhoods of Sydney.
While I never met her, I have no doubt Giovanna must be bursting with pride as she watches her mother and her family use her story to help others. In Angela’s own words, they do all of these things for one reason only – “so no one else has to walk in our shoes”.
I feel compelled to help Angela tell Giovanna’s story.
Here’s the link to her website Giovanna’s Gift and if there is anything you can do to help Angela to keep the precious memory of her daughter alive, and to help those facing similar battles…please, please do.