By Laura Seil Ruszczyk
We are a group of six women located throughout the world. Two of us live in the Eastern part of the United States, two on the West Coast and two as far away as Australia. We talk daily, laugh, cry, share victories and defeats. We range in age from about 50 to 75. Four of us are married and two are single. Three are even grandmas. Several have elderly parents they look after, while others lost their parents long ago.
We are as close as six women can be, always encouraging each other in day-to-day activities. And when one of us is facing a hardship, we rally around that person, praying and offering support.
We call ourselves the Tutu Sisters. One of our Australian friends came up with the name after sending us a graphic of a little girl dancing in a tutu. We laughed about tutus for weeks and grabbed on to the idea of us wearing them.
Now if any member mentions tutus, it conjures up visions of us dancing around in them. I personally cannot dance, but am willing to wear a red tutu over biking shorts. Others have chosen green, pink, purple, orange and even a polka-dotted frock. We have not actually worn tutus together, but we hope to someday.
But here is the unique thing about us. We have never met altogether in person, although the Australian ladies have had one get-together in which they laughed, sipped tea and talked all afternoon.
We are what you might call virtual friends in the age of technology. Virtual friends are people one communicates with through the internet. This may occur in a Facebook page devoted to a certain common topic, a chat room, email or another social networking format.
In our case, we met as writers for a Christian website that writes religious works to help those dealing with chronic illness. We all have that in common – chronic illness. We had belonged to a larger writers group within this website until about a year ago, when the site scaled back while its founder dealt with increasing medical issues. Instead of losing contact, six of us broke off into a virtual group via emails.
One might wonder what six women with dozens of medical problems between them would talk (write) about. Sure, we share our medical struggles, but that is not our main focus. We write about anything on our mind, seeking support, counsel or just a place to be heard. There is no fear of being judged; no worry about what we share.
We have supported each other through family problems, surgeries, deaths, moves and frightening medical diagnoses.
Our Seattle friend held a beautiful book launch that we could not attend, but we stood beside her in support. And that is the remarkable thing. At any given hour (or day, since the Australian time zone is far ahead) we support and pray for one another.
We don’t question each other when we become discouraged with our medical situations. Rather we understand and offer support. Oftentimes just knowing someone else can comprehend our situation and share a common language is enough to help us.
And despite where we are on our chronic illness journey, we celebrate the victories with each other. This may be as large as the book launch, or as small as getting out for a meal, visiting a park with family members or going for a bike ride.
As Tutu Sisters, we are in this journey together, and I am forever grateful for these women.