I Admire Her More Than Words Can Say
By Alison Rivera
San Francisco, California

     Through the years, there have been so many women that I have admired. Some I admired for their strength and others for their kindness- and some for reasons I will never be able to fully explain. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I have known some incredible women in my life. I began to ask myself which one of them I admired the most...and why?

     Suddenly, as I searched for the answers, I remembered the time in my life when I had felt the most alone and the smile of the person who had made me feel as if I belonged...and I had my answer. Her name is Danelle Thome.

     I met Danelle in 1995 when I lived in Hawaii and was pregnant with my daughter, Samantha. I had been staying in a women's shelter, had no family or close friends in the islands and was suffering from an unyet diagnosed case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was as alone and scared as I have ever been.

     Danelle invited me to stay with her. She was married with 3 children, with another one on the way. When her husband couldn't find work, she had enlisted in the Army to support their family. During her pregnancy, she was diagnosed with osteoporosis and spent several weeks in a full leg cast. The Army never gave her one day off, not even when she began to go into labor early, and yet she never stopped smiling or caring for the people in her life.

     Our daughters were born less than a month apart and shortly after that I moved back to California and Danelle was transferred to Kansas City. It was while she was stationed in Kansas that Danelle was diagnosed with breast cancer.

     Hearing that you have cancer is awful for anyone, but the worst part for Danelle was that when she was just a child, she had lost her mother to the awful disease. I can only imagine how frightened she must have been when she looked at her 4 children, knowing what they would feel if she was taken away from them.

     I say I can only imagine because during her entire ordeal, which involved fighting both the cancer and the Army for the recommended surgery, to my the best of my knowledge, she never stopped caring for other people.

     Every time I would speak with her, I could "see" her smile as she would ask how I was doing. Through a double mastectomy, and all of the following surgeries, not once did I hear even the slightest hint of self-pity or defeat. It was both amazing and inspirational and something that I cannot help but recall each time I begin to feel sorry for myself.

     Danelle recently retired from the Army. She is estranged from her husband and struggling to support herself and her 4 children. If anyone has a right to complain or to throw an adult sized tantrum, she does, and yet, each time I speak with her she is doing something for her children, her church or her neighbors.

     But that is not what I admire the most about her...it is knowing that whatever she does, the smile that made such a difference in my life 5 years ago remains...and always will.

     And that, as far as I am concerned, is something I admire more than words will ever be able to say.

You can visit Danelle Thome at Momplus4.com
Alison Rivera is a writer and web page designer .