Kaye Lane was not a smoker, so lung cancer was the last thing she suspected when she felt ill last year.
Throughout the months of hospital visits and chemotherapy that followed her initial diagnosis, Lane's Providence Plantation neighbors and friends rallied around her.
They shared her angst at the injustice of her battle with cancer and hated being unable to do anything about it. But they did not feel helpless as she suffered because they were not helpless; they were, in fact, very helpful.
Christina Peterson, Lane's next-door neighbor and close friend, organized a neighborhood meal drive. Within a day of sending out the request, dinners were covered for the next four months.
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When Lane's unexpected hospitalizations wreaked havoc with her kids' schedules, friends and neighbors pitched in with child care, carpooling or simply providing a place for the kids to land at a moment's notice. Some neighbors accompanied her to chemotherapy, while others took her to the movies. One neighbor even donated the use of a beach house, where the Lane family enjoyed a much-needed quiet weekend together. Everyone on Team Kaye (they had T-shirts made and threw a Team Kaye party) had a role to play.
As Lane, a former elementary schoolteacher, recuperated throughout spring and summer, she liked nothing more than returning to her routine. Lane also returned to one of her favorite activities: Sitting in a circle of lawn chairs on her driveway with a gaggle of moms, with a keen sense of appreciation for all it signified.
Perhaps the greatest gift Lane's neighbors gave her was their friendship and companionship. As Lane sat with them, laughing and chatting while their children played in the surrounding yards, she could return to her old self.
"Kaye had a contagious laughter," Peterson recalled. "It started in her toes ... and you couldn't help but join in."
The tight-knit group of women circled Lane and offered support and compassion. They also celebrated with her when the tumor shrank and she appeared to be in remission.
Last month, Peterson again sent out a group e-mail requesting help for the Lane family. Lane's cancer had returned. The network of Providence Plantation women who had pitched in the first time did so again.
Neighbors were encouraged to log on to www.takethemameal.com, a Web site established for just such scenarios. Cindy Schachner, another of Lane's neighbors, put a cooler on her front porch and offered to serve as the go-between for meal deliveries so the Lanes wouldn't have to contend with visitors each day. Lane was touched by the nonstop dinners over the course of her illness and credits them and the support behind them with how well she responded to chemotherapy.
When Lane, 45, returned from her last hospital visit, she was greeted by a slew of cream-colored ribbons that adorned the mailboxes of every house on the streets leading to her own. The bows were Kelly Kruse's idea, and she painstakingly made 102 of them (aided by neighbor Pamela Seiber) and affixed them all with a note that read, "This is to show our love and support for our neighbor who is battling lung cancer."
Kruse said she knows the importance of supporting a family when they are grieving: Her brother, Aaron Burns, was killed in a car accident in 2001.
The ribbons serve as a reminder of the loss the entire neighborhood feels now that Lane is no longer with us. Lane's friends rallied again after her death March 25, arranging for food to be on hand for the family after the funeral, purchasing flowers for her casket and providing the Lane family with some money to cover medical and funeral costs.
Lane's husband, Ricky, who was Kaye's high school sweetheart while the two grew up in Ocean Springs, Miss., said he knows he can count on his Providence Plantation neighbors to help him keep her memory alive for their three children: Logan, 15, Laura, 11, and Leah, 4.