Alaina Levane Giordano left this world on Monday, June 25th after a very courageous battle with cancer.
Alaina's battle with the cancer that ultimately shortened her life was not the only battle she fought courageously. Alaina's story (and my getting to know her) became a story that thousands got to know because of the injustice of what happened in a North Carolina family courtroom.
Alaina's children were in effect taken away from her because of her breast cancer diagnosis. Now some might say that the court was right to award custody to her ex-husband seeing that she lost her battle with the disease. Certainly the children were going to have to live with their father full-time eventually even though up to the time of the hearing Alaina was their primary caregiver.
What struck me then and what still bothers me now is that the court was not thinking about the best interests of the children. What I fear is that others might use Alaina's defeat to allow this injustice to happen to someone else.
The problem with this case was that behind it was a vindictive, spiteful and hateful man. Not every marriage ends without some bad blood but in Alaina's case the relationship had long been one of abuse.
I got involved with Alaina after I had seen the Facebook page made in support of her fight to regain custody. It struck me that the courts would fault someone for an illness that is totally out of one's control and I felt compelled to get involved.
Sure I could have just donated some money and gone on with my life but after losing a dear friend just months before (to cancer that was undiagnosed until it was too late) I needed something to get involved in.
I wrote to Alaina and asked her if I could interview her with the hopes that I could publish a story on Associated Content (now Yahoo Voices) to gain support for her.
Thus began our friendship, short-lived but none the less meaningful.
We e-mailed and then began daily phone conversations. She told me the painful story of life with Kane, how her cancer diagnosis went undiscovered for so long although she KNEW something was wrong and how she would never sit back and allow her children to be taken from her.
Talking to Alaina I felt as if she could have been my sister, my daughter or even my childhood friend. She was, of course, none of those but I still felt a strong bond with her.
I spent many hours on the phone with Alaina and I became obsessed with helping her to see this ridiculous ruling get overturned. Alaina shared a lot with me about her life, her past with Kane and what she hoped for in the future. At the time Alaina was well and no one would know she had cancer. There was no reason to believe that a little more than a year later she would be gone. NONE. Her doctors were amazed at how well she was doing. She was beating the odds and no one could predict anything.
Alaina truly believed that she would be around to see her children grow up. I believed it too- her spirit and her will were that strong.
She confessed to me the mistakes she made in the past, the ones that her ex now used against her in court. No one is perfect but I still believed in the fight for her children. She was the better parent. There was/is no doubt in my mind.
Everything Alaina did was for her two children. Even when faced with cancer, the children's needs came first.
Alaina had given her children a wonderful life in Durham. They went to the best schools for their needs and she had them involved in many activites that they enjoyed. It was all about Sofia and Bud. As a mom I was in awe of her.
Alaina's story got support worldwide but ultimately it wasn't enough to change the ruling. Thankfully she did get to have her children with her at the end of her life.
The fight that she had to endure to regain custody and continue to see her children took a toll on her health. There is NO doubt in my mind. But Alaina's stength and will came from her love of her two children.
Never underestimate the power of a mother's love.
Alaina was living proof of that.