Bright Lights shining in a Lonely Nightmare

It took a global health epidemic and stay at home order to make me start writing again. I have no excuse now, I’ve got plenty of time on my hands! Just want to preface this post with a warning–this is not just a quick blog post, but really it’s more of a short story. I hope you will read it and feel something special. I decided to kick off my reunion with this site by sharing a story that really goes with the theme I’ve created here—things happening for a reason and Duran Duran. Only this time it’s really not about me, but someone I can now call a ‘Friend of Mine’.

If you’ve read my other posts about my cancer journey, you will see why Holly and I were meant to meet… If you have not read them yet, grab a comfy chair and a glass of wine or big cup of joe and read those first– it will help you really understand this amazing story. Hey, you have nowhere else to be right now!

One warm June evening, I was sitting on the patio having a glass of wine and scrolling through Facebook, when I came across a post announcing that Duran Duran would be at Kennedy Space Center on July 16 for a special show to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Of course the excitement welled in my belly. Tickets were a bit pricey—$300.00 (ouch) and that was all they offered at that time for general admission. A few months prior in February, I had spent a good chunk of change on the VIP package to see them in New Orleans, but this show was not to be missed! It would truly be something unique and amazing. My husband, who is used to my “habit” didn’t even say a word about me going, he assumed I was already purchasing the tickets. I really didn’t think any of my friends would want to fork over 300 bucks, but to my pleasant surprise they were up for it! My friend Amy, the “Martha Stewart” of our group as we lovingly call her, was always creating amazing things, so I had a feeling she would come up with something great for the show. We immediately started collaborating and came up with some really cute ideas for tees to wear.  Yay, another fun Duran Duran outing to put on my calendar! I was over the moon.

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Holly noticed a lump in her breast in June 2019. She wasn’t too worried because she had a “clear” mammogram in February, just 4 months earlier, that revealed she had dense breasts–something she already knew from previous mammograms. She chalked up this new-found lump as just being more dense tissue. When she went in for her annual well-woman visit and mentioned it, her doctor wasn’t too worried about the lump either, but put her on antibiotics and ordered a 3-D mammogram as a precaution. After completing the mammogram, Holly was advised that she would need to schedule a biopsy. Still, she wasn’t worried—she just assumed the doctors were all erring on the side of caution. She completed the biopsy in early July.

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Paula, Amy and I went for hair appointments before heading over to the coast–something my friend Paula has liked to do before our Duran shows, and has become our little tradition. Since we rarely go out on the town any more, these shows are always a fun night out for us, like old times. The hair had to go up this time, as it was way too hot and sticky to do anything else only to have it destroyed by the humidity. We were having a great time at the salon–Amy had bought us fun space themed hair accessories to put in our hair and we were getting really excited for the show. After our hair was done, we all drove over to the coast, checked in to the hotel, and met up with Jennifer, a friend of Amy’s who was also a Duranie that I hadn’t met in person until this day, though I felt like I had known her forever. I was so thrilled to meet another Duranie like me that could join my tribe of concert-goers! Before we headed over to the Kennedy Space Center, Amy surprised us each with a John, Simon, Nick and Roger head on a stick — all donning astronaut helmets that matched our shirts. These stick guys would eventually become ‘Duran fans’, as it was still sweltering outside even though we were headed into the evening. Summer in Florida! These fans would also have much more meaning, though I didn’t realize it then. The tees Amy made us came out amazing, we would even be asked for pictures at the show and people wanted to know where we got them. Amy could have made a fortune in sales!

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Holly was so excited for the Duran concert. As she was packing up her things to leave work early for the day and head over, her co-worker told her that her doctor was on the phone. She picked up the receiver, now feeling a little worried because it was the actual doctor calling and not a nurse. Holly could tell by her tone of voice that it wasn’t good news. “We got your results back and the biopsy showed malignancy.” Her heart felt like it stopped beating and she was frozen, not believing what she was hearing. “What stage is it and why was my mammogram fine in February?”, she blurted out. She wanted all the answers at that moment, but the doctor just said she would refer her to Moffitt Cancer Center for more information. She hung up the phone and immediately started crying quietly while collecting her things. Another co-worker who happened to be a breast cancer survivor asked her what was wrong and the soft crying turned into sobbing while she told her what she just learned—she has breast cancer. She got in her car and sat there a moment, contemplating not even going to the concert but instead going home and telling her husband immediately. After thinking about it, she realized there was nothing he could really do, and she would just be at home crying, worried and depressed from the news while missing the concert she so looked forward to. She made the decision to wait one day to share the news and proceeded to go to the concert as planned. On the long lonely drive there, she cried and cried, even stopping at one point to get some hard lemonade at a convenience store to calm her down and make her feel better. As she got ready at her hotel, she started to put the cancer in the back of her mind, focusing her thoughts on Duran Duran and the show. But the calls that were coming in from Moffitt eclipsed the euphoria. Still, she moved forward and got ready to go.

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It was scorching  hot at the Kennedy Space Center turnstiles, no breeze and lots of people gathered waiting to get in. Amy, ever so prepared, had bought us battery operated fans to wear around our necks that actually lit up too, perfect for the show. We pretty much wore them out just waiting for admittance, it was so hot. There were many Duranies there of course, all chatting about the band and the upcoming show. I always love meeting other fans, there is a comradery between us that others don’t understand. We snapped some pictures, when we still all looked good before the sweat set in. We chatted with a guy that looked like he was a rock star with his black neatly styled hair, we met a couple girls that were there together and then one girl that seemed to be there alone. I thought to myself “wow, that girl definitely has dedication and devotion to go to a concert alone, I probably couldn’t do it”.  When the gate finally opened, we all ran in to secure our spots up front. Thanks to my new Duranie sister Jennifer, who was sprinting like she was running from a mad bull in Pamplona, we got spots in front on John’s side. I was so eager to get the show started now that we had our spot, but we still had hours before show time! Paula and I decided we would take a walk, find the restroom and get some beverages, while Amy and Jennifer held our places. The lines for drinks were ridiculously long and we realized we would only be doing this once—a little can of cheap wine just wasn’t worth the wait.

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Holly parked and downed another hard lemonade drink to try to calm her nerves, then headed toward the KSC entrance. She saw the Duranies already lined up, all hoping to get a good spot in front to see their guys. She recognized someone she knew from social media but had never met in person, so she started talking to him. She noticed a group of ladies arrive, all dressed in cool tee shirts holding hand held fans with astronaut-themed band member heads on them. Their names, she learned, were Kelly, Jennifer and Amy. Holly chatted with them, and thought they were so nice and friendly. Being there in the excitement of the moment, she forgot all the bad news she had just received earlier and just enjoyed being with the other fans. No way she was going to mention the word cancer to anyone! After the gate opened, Holly ran to the stage in the hopes of getting on the front row on JT’s side. It was so hot but it didn’t slow her down and she ran as fast as she could. Her new Duranie buddies weren’t far behind her and actually ended up right next to her. After settling in, Kelly and Paula left to go to the bathroom and to get drinks. The heat was brutal and Holly noticed the JT astronaut fan sticking out of one of their bags so she asked Amy and Jennifer if she could see it. She started to fan herself, and at that moment a photographer came up to them and asked them all to pose with the stick fans for a picture. Holly had no idea it was actually a photographer for DD’s social media.

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Paula and I returned to our spots with cold drinks in hand, and I noticed that Amy and Jennifer were looking at their phones smiling. I figured they were posting some selfies on Facebook that they took while we were gone, but realized later that a photographer from Duran snapped a photo of them holding the fans and it was posted on Instagram and Facebook. The girl that we had just met in line was also in the picture. I was so upset! How could this happen? Why did it have to be while we were in the bathroom? It became a running joke all night, me whining about missing my big break on Duran’s social media. I mean, we didn’t even really know this other girl and there she was holding my John! Not fair!

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Holly asked Kelly to hold her spot at the front so she could get a drink. The line was so long and she waited there for what seemed an eternity. Her phone wasn’t getting a signal so she couldn’t look at it, so she started chatting with another fan and it passed the time. The concert was going to start soon and she was so worried her great spot would be taken so after she got her drinks she headed back right away. By this time, the field was so crowded but she squeezed her way back in. She got a signal and noticed her phone was blowing up with messages from other fans telling her to check DD’s Instagram. She pulled it up and there it was– a picture of her with Kelly’s JT fan, along with Jennifer and Amy and their fans!! She was so excited, but immediately felt bad after thinking about how Kelly missed out on that photo. It was, after all, her fan and those were her friends. She felt it ruined the dynamic between the other girls and her, and bothered her a bit, taking away from the excitement. She soon forgot about all of that. The drones twinkling in the sky, the sound of The Universe Alone, the orchestra. She forgot about all the events that weighed heavily on her mind and immersed herself in the music from the band she has loved since 1984.

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The show was amazing, to say the least. Not only were we right up front, but just being part of this celebration with my favorite band was unforgettable. The moon was full and the weather, while hotter than the sun’s surface, was clear and rain free. The orchestra and choir just added richness to the songs that I already love so much. This one would go down in the books for sure, right up there with the Miami Sirius show. The heat was on for sure, but we didn’t stop dancing and singing. It was over way too quickly and we headed back to the car and sat in the endless stream of traffic trying to get out. I was still mad about the picture, but happy for my friends that they were in it. For days after the show, I would see that picture pop up on Facebook and Instagram. It haunted me, but it was silly to be upset about something so trivial. The girl that was in the picture, Holly, had friend requested me and one day I noticed it and accepted it. One of the first posts I saw on her page caught my eye and made me stop. She was checked in at Moffitt Cancer Center getting some tests done. Cancer. Something I know all too well. I sent her a quick reply that I wasn’t sure what she was dealing with, but that I was a breast cancer survivor so if she needed anything to let me know. We started chatting and I just could not believe what she told me. Her story was so much like mine–from the way she found out and being in disbelief, the type she had, her treatment plan, all of it! I just knew right there that this was not a chance meeting between 2 Duranies at a concert. It was so much more. We were meant to connect. When she told me that she found out that day of the show, I got chills.

It was at that moment I realized something bigger was at play here.

That picture of her holding the JT fan on social media was meant for her, not for me. She was meant to be in that photo, it was a little pick-me-up gift from the universe to her on that emotional day. Any feelings I still had over that picture evaporated at that moment, and turned into complete and utter happiness for my new friend. Just like when I bumped into John at a lunch work meeting while still recovering from one of my many surgeries, she had the picture. And I couldn’t stop smiling!

Holly and I have chatted often and we’ve met since then. Amy made Holly her very own JT on a stick that I gave to her one night at dinner. I was going to give her mine, but it was starting to fall apart from all the fanning and waving it had been through, so Amy offered to make her one. We keep in touch and she keeps me posted on her treatments and journey. I hope I am helpful to her, as I know so many helped me. Our paths are so similar and Duran really did bring us together in friendship. It was through our favorite band we met, which is so amazing to me.

This story, like one of Aesop’s Fables, has an important moral too. We never know what someone else is going through, so we need to be kind to each other. It’s that simple. You never know what impact you are making on someone’s life. We’ve heard all of this before, but sometimes it takes a really special moment to make you realize it.

Thank you to Holly Rouse for contributing her side of the story for this post.

Still waiting.... it's hot!
Waiting to get in
Hot Duranies!
The shirts!
The shirts that made us famous! Looking at Planet Earth and Leaving with an Astronaut!
The famous DD post!
The picture that was seen ’round the world

 

 

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