OAKHURST — Women in the mountain area will meet once again to elevate one of our own, as the local chapter of Helping One Woman (HOW) gathers at El Cid Mexican Cuisine on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 6 p.m. Reservations are requested.
HOW’s mission is to “help a woman in her time of need and loss,” by reaching out to support someone in the community every month and sometimes beyond. It truly is a gift that keeps on giving, as August’s honoree may attest.
This month’s HOW recipient is wife/mother/sister/friend Darla Dean who has been recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
According to The National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, MS is a “chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.”
MS is said to affect more than 2.1 million people worldwide. “Today, new treatments and advances in research are giving new hope to people affected by the disease,” says the organization.
Darla Dean’s friends and loved ones, incuding husband Peter Youds, would probably say that she is one in a million: bright, funny, outgoing and part of a large, tight-knit family not known for being shy or withholding. The diagnosis of MS for Dean came in March, just two days before her 42nd birthday.
“Many of the symptoms of MS are not always outwardly visible,” says the mom of college senior and light-of-her-life Chloe.
“You can’t see when someone’s arm is weak or numb, you don’t always know when someone has pain. I tend to hide when I’m not feeling well.”
Symptoms of MS also often include depression and fatigue.
“A hard day for me is when my body hurts all over and I don’t even feel like getting out of bed,” Dean says without complaint. “This usually happens when I’ve had spasms throughout the night and haven’t slept well. When I do make it out of bed it takes at least an hour for my muscles to get ‘warmed up.'”
This is where Dean’s natural optimism and stubbornness kick in. Great days are what she wants. “A great day is when I wake up with lots of energy, very few symptoms and a positive feeling about the day. I may have pain but I know that I’m able to tackle it. A great day is challenging myself and setting a daily goal and achieving it.”
The uplifting HOW dinner planned in Darla Dean’s honor will be a great day, and an opportunity to get together with good friends while doing some good for one local woman. Dean herself was a regular in attendance at HOW meetings until her symptoms led to the MS diagnosis, at which time she understandably stayed away a couple of months, until she was ready to share the news. Dean knew what would happen when she did tell the group: she went from giving to receiving, a position that Dean, like many women, is not entirely sure about.
“To be a HOW recipient this month feels so humbling, to actually know that you have so many people that care about you and want to lift you up,” confides the former pizza maker and bank employee.
“I didn’t share what was going on with the HOW ladies because I knew that there were a lot of ladies in a much harder place than me and I didn’t want to take away from that.” Dean is learning to relax into the position. “I guess we all have our challenges and I loved making our past recipients happy. It’s an amazing group of ladies making a small gesture with a big impact. I am so very grateful.”
HOW is a nonprofit woman’s organization that has a monthly dinner to honor a woman that has suffered a devastating loss. Besides paying for one’s own dinner at a fixed price, each guest puts an additional $10 (or more) in a “pot,” or bowl. At the end of the dinner the money is gifted to the woman that is being honored, and a new recipient is chosen from suggestions by the group.”
To make reservations phone El Cid (559) 683-6668 and mention HOW.
Fore more information see HOW on Facebook