On that hot, chaotic August day

Freshmen, take a look at your new roommates. They might become lifelong friends, and there’s also the possibility that they will change your lives forever. Read on for the heartwarming story of two random roommates with an extraordinary bond. But beware: The story of Denise Dance Waff (’00)∫ and Amanda Howard Hoban (’00) could bring you to tears….

“If there’s ANYTHING I can do…”

by Denise Dance Waff (’00)

Amanda Howard Hoban ('00) and Denise Dance Waff ('00) — once random roomates, now extraordinary friends.

Amanda Howard Hoban (’00) and Denise Dance Waff (’00) — once random roommates, now extraordinary friends.

From the moment I received my freshman housing assignment from James Madison University in 1996, I began wondering what my roommate would be like. Would we have anything in common? Would we get along? Would she even want to hang out with me?!! Fortunately, our first phone contact eased most of my fears as we got to know each other and worked out all the important logistics for dorm life: Who’s bringing the fridge? Who’s bringing the TV? By the time we met in Eagle Hall on that hot, chaotic, August day, I already knew we would be great roommates. We spent the afternoon unpacking our things and organizing our room, and then headed out to a cookout welcoming incoming freshman. By the end of the night, we had coordinated our schedules, mapped out where we’d meet for meals, and had completely planned how we’d spend our first weekend as college students. Oh yeah, we were going to get along just fine!

Over the next four years, Amanda and I did something not many randomly paired freshman roommates do — we continued to live together. From Wayland Hall to Ashby Crossing, the idea of living apart never even entered our minds. We were roommates, confidantes, partners in crime — we were best friends. I think it’s safe to say that neither of our JMU experiences would have been complete without the other.

20140816_130924After graduation in the spring of 2000, Amanda and I began our long-distance friendship, she in Northern Virginia and I in Richmond. There was no text messaging back then (man, I sound old), so we called and emailed on a weekly basis. We burned up Interstate 95 visiting each other during those early years. New jobs, apartments, birthdays. We didn’t really need a reason to celebrate if it meant we could spend a weekend together. As we settled into adulthood in the mid-2000s, we each established careers, got married, and purchased homes. We served as maid/matron of honor in each other’s weddings, planning bridal showers and bachelorette parties. Soon after, pregnancies were announced and babies were born — two boys for Amanda and one boy for me. Despite growing work and family responsibilities, we still found time to stay connected. And as with any good friendship, it was like no time had passed every time we talked.

20140707_153050 In the summer of 2010, my husband and I began contemplating having a second child. With almost two years of parenting experience behind us, we figured we were adequately equipped to give our son a sibling. Around that same time, I received devastating news. At age 32, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. What I had naively believed only happened to women over age 50 had actually happened to me. After my initial shock/anger wore off, I began telling people, which was almost as hard as hearing it the first time myself. I emailed Amanda because I was not strong enough to say the words out loud, and I remember literally feeling her sadness when I read her reply. She ended her email with the statement, “All I can say is if there is anything, and I mean anything, that I (or Joe and I) can do for you, just say the word. Don’t even hesitate.” Little did she or I know how true those words would ring true in the future.

Fast forward to 2013.

With chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple surgeries behind me, I was cancer-free and ready to put this awful disease behind me. At the urging of my doctors, my husband and I had preserved our ability to have more children by freezing embryos prior to my cancer treatments. I shared with Amanda that carrying a child would be risky for me and that my doctors were not supportive of this idea. Without hesitation, Amanda offered to carry a child for me and my husband. It was the most selfless , amazing, and humbling thing anyone had ever said to me.

Now, obviously, the next part of the story is anything but simple — doctor appointments, medications, legal contracts (required by law). It has been a PROCESS, to say the least. But in March 2014, we received the BEST news ever — we were PREGNANT!

As I write this, Amanda is currently 25 weeks with our precious baby boy. I am still just as humbled now as I was when we began this journey last year, and at times, my gratitude is so overwhelming it takes my breath away. Despite her concerns over her growing size (“I feel as big as a HOUSE!”), she has never looked more beautiful to me and I have never loved her more. We have been bonded as friends for 18 years, and now we will be bonded as family for a lifetime.

And although we were randomly paired by JMU, I am certain there was nothing “random” about it.

Thanks to Denise and Amanda for sharing their amazing story. We’ll update this story — in about 15 weeks or so. Many thanks, also, to my former colleague, writer Colleen Dixon, who told us about this story.
Advertisements

About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

One Response to On that hot, chaotic August day

  1. I’ve stayed friends with my roommates too. You build some amazing friendships at college.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: