When you are diagnosed with cancer, you feel so alone. You feel like there is no one out there that understands. You don't really know where to turn. I turned to the internet after my diagnosis and found a whole world of support that I didn't know existed before. My ThyCa group proved to be very useful for explain treatments, surgeries, lab results, what to expect, etc. But there was still all the emotions to deal with, and the listserv wasn't enough. Then I found help at the very school I was working in. I found Ann Marie.
Ann Marie was an angel on earth. We didn't talk until several months after my diagnosis (many people at school didn't even know that the new PE teacher had cancer), but she helped me through some of the most difficult emotions of cancer since she had been there already. Having cancer is tough enough, but having cancer in your early 20s brings a whole new set of problems. Ann Marie taught me it was okay to ask as many questions as you needed, and to question your doctors if you didn't agree with that they were doing. "You know your body better than anyone else, even better than your doctors."
She prayed for me and with me. Ann Marie knew what I was going through as a 20-something with cancer. I can remember us having long talks in the equipment room at JCMS, and always feeling empowered and ready to kick some cancer ass afterwards. She was so encouraging, uplifting, and supportive. I guess you could have called her my cancer Survivor Mentor. And in turn, I have taken what I have learned from her and passed it on to others.
Ann Marie passed away on February 1st. She had been battling colon cancer for a while. I cannot imagine the pain that her husband and small son are feeling. My heart breaks to know that cancer has taken another person from this earth. That she won't be able to encourage another young woman fighting cancer with her words, her smile, her jokes. She will be missed, she is already missed. But she will never be forgotten. I will continue to share the knowledge and strength she gave me with other Survivors. I will continue to remember the encouragement she gave me each time I had a check-up. I will pass along that same encouragement and wisdom she gave me.
Thank you, Ann Marie.