Review: Anne passed away due to complications from uterine leiomyosarcoma (LMS).

June 8, 2019

Anne’s memorial was held at the church she grew up in.  The small church quickly filled with friends and family of all ages from all the country.  Boy Scout and Navy uniforms could be spotted throughout the crowd.  She had planned the memorial before her passing.  Music was a big part of her life and each song she selected was one that had given her strength along her journey.  Her sister, friend, and nurse spoke.  All three joked at her sense of humor in picking them.   Those present were given the opportunity to speak at the end of the service.  The recurring theme was Anne cared about each person in her life and you knew she cared.

After the service, a reception showcased Anne’s many interests.  A slideshow projected images from throughout her life.  The tables were adorned with sunflowers and purple ribbons for leiomyosarcoma awareness, as well as chocolates (Anne’s favorite), and pens inscribed with “Think of Anne, and smile.”

It was an afternoon of many tears, but also many laughs as we reminisced about Anne and how much we will miss her.

small church filled with people at a memorial

The small church Anne grew up in quickly filled with friends and family.

In the Beginning

Quite a while ago, Anne asked me to post about what being on this journey was like for me.  I have been stalling.  I could not find the right words.  I am good at pushing through whatever needs to be done and not stopping to reflect until it is over.  And so here it is, better late than never, my thoughts on the past year and half with Anne.

When Anne was first diagnosed with her first surgery.  I was relieved. “Glad they caught it!  Carry on with life as normal.” When she had the recurrence weeks later, this idea to document her journey began to tug at my heart.  I asked my husband and friends. “Should I ask her? Should I do this?” Questions and doubt filled my mind.  “Can I keep this commitment? I am already so busy.  Am I good enough?  I have no clue how to go about this.  Why would I put myself through this again??” (I cared for my mother-in-law in the final weeks of her fight with cancer not long ago.  Perhaps that experience prepared me for this one.)

I read every page of every website Anne had shared about uterine leiomyosarcoma (LMS).  Needless to say, there was little hope of a positive outcome.  I sat beside my husband and cried.  He took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eyes and said, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Despite the self-doubt and bleak outlook, the pulling at my heart to take this journey with Anne had only grown stronger.  I knew it was something I had to do or I would regret it.  Anne’s response to my request was met with tears and “It’s perfect.”

mother and son

After the service, a slideshow played in the reception, and sunflowers in support of LMS adorned the tables.

Reflection

Looking back, I know the reason the pulling on my heart was so strong was because I needed her in my life.  2018 was a year of hardships and struggles for my family.  Without her friendship, support, and advice, I am certain the outcomes of those situations would have been different.

I was in a women’s bootcamp with Anne for one year before her diagnosis.  I thought I “knew” her. I was wrong.

She was the best friend anyone could ask for.  She remembered the smallest details about you.  She would call late at night just to check on you because she knew you probably got some bad news, and then just listen while you cry.  She was encouraging and positive with a healthy dose of sarcasm and humor mixed in.  All her advice came from a place of love, and there was never a doubt of that.  She was unapologetically confident in who she was and welcomed you as you were.

The stories told at her memorial reaffirmed the friend I am describing acted no different to any one she met: stranger, doctor, nurse, child, teacher, fellow parent.  There were so many stories of Anne doing little things that made a big impact in a person’s life.  One person told me, “She never gave you a reason to not like her.”  And that is simplest way to describe Anne.

Her unfailing love for Ray, their son, and all her family is something one can only hope to have to in their own life.  Nothing brought her more joy than her family.  Her eyes would shine with pride talking about each one, especially her son.  Her love for her son was so strong it kept her fighting and beating the odds for eighteen months, motivating her to rise again and again to face the fight and ask “What’s next?” with each setback.

(Just to keep Anne from seeming too saintly *wink* Every time I asked Anne for advice dealing with my pre-teen, she would say, “Vodka.”  We would laugh and I would say, “No, really, what do I do?”  —  “Vodka.”  Every. Single. Time!)

Her unwavering faith is an inspiration.  She did question and cry about (and, I am sure, at times, get angry with) her diagnosis.  Her mottos remained the same, though. “One step at a time.” “Say a prayer and keep going.” “I know there’s a plan.”

family grieves at a funeral

Anne’s niece and nephew support her husband and son during the service.

Moving Forward

Throughout this journey, I would remind Anne she is a glow stick.  In her “brokenness,” she is shining a light to all those around her.  Inspiring each of us to be the best versions of ourselves.  Be kinder.  Find ways to help others.  Value each day and person in our life. Hug your loved ones a little more.  Find the humor in the situation.  Believe.

While Anne is no longer physically with us, I know this is not the end of her story.  Those lives she touched will carry the “light” she shared with them and her memory.   I would like to continue Anne’s Story by showing how people are carrying on her memory.  If you are doing anything in Anne’s memory, please contact me, especially if you are in the Kitsap area.

I am also looking into ways to share her story within the cancer community to continue to Anne’s goal of bringing awareness to LMS and comfort to those faced with the same battle.

woman speaking in a church

Anne’s mother thanked everyone for coming. I once heard: An orphan is a child that lost his parents. A widow lost a spouse. But there is no word for a parent who loses a child because there is no word to describe that pain.

Final Thoughts

Anne’s sister, friend, and nurse all spoke beautifully about Anne at her memorial.  Two insights that seem fitting here are:

  1. You are allowed to grieve however you want. You can even wear your bra on the outside if you want. (That is straight from Anne.)
  2. Anne did not “lose her fight with cancer.” She inspired every person she met along her journey.  She shared her story in hopes of helping others.  She showed love, courage, determination, and faith every step of the way, and when you look at it like this, you cannot help but say she won.

As I have been writing this, the chorus of “Well Done” by The Afters has been on repeat in my head.  Knowing how important music and faith are to Anne, it is the perfect way to end Anne’s Story (for now).

Well done, well done
My good and faithful one
Welcome to the place where you belong
Well done, well done
My beloved child
You have run the race and now you’re home
Welcome to the place where you belong

Grief quote

A picture of a quote about grief that Anne had written and posted in her home was displayed at her memorial.

 

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Sparkson Photography

Jennifer Jones of Sparkson Photography is a documentary style family photographer specializing in family, newborn, and school portraits. Serving Kitsap County, WA and surrounding area.

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