I am nominating my sister Teresa for the Legacy of Love award. If I had one word to describe my sister it would be that she is a fighter. She has been that way ever since she entered this world as a preemie, she was a fighter. Growing up she was the 3rd of 7 kids, she was a fighter. As she became an adult, she decided to take a job that allowed her to travel the US and during that time she became a single mom. Once again a fighter. When Casey arrived, he was a month early and although he was only 4 pounds, he too was a fighter. Life was tough being a single mom with a son, but she fought to give him everything he needed while growing up and often as our children grow, they become rebellious and she fought hard to keep him on the right path in life. Casey seemed to be the type of kid to learn the hard way and he fought his way through life as well. He too became a single dad and he fought like crazy to be a part of his son’s life. Life was just beginning to have some sort of normalcy. Teresa now with a spouse and raising 2 young children, Casey 26 and living his life with a job he loved, being an awesome brother to his little sister and brother and now having his son in his life. Life was good. Casey didn’t seem to pay much attention to the texts he would often misspell, the days he felt a little off-balance or the headaches that seemed to come more often. A visit to his Dr about a knee injury, a casual mention of the headaches, and a CT scan later would change their lives forever. I remember getting the call from her about Casey possibly having a brain tumor and he was going to have surgery on his brain the next day. Her voice was timid and cracked with emotion but her resolve was there. I encouraged her to take things one at a time, to breathe, to have faith, and to stay strong. I was with her and Casey when the Drs explained his diagnosis, stage 4 Glioblastoma. I was there when Casey asked the question: “how long?” and I was there when the Drs said 14 months. The next question Casey asked was, “Has anyone ever beat this cancer?” the Dr responded, one. Then Casey said, “You’re looking at number two right here.” Later that day in private Teresa told me “I will be strong for Casey” even though I could tell she was breaking inside. She immediately made plans for Casey to move back to Blair so he would be near Dr’s and his treatment center. She took Casey to every Dr appointment, every treatment, countless ER visits in the night when he didn’t feel right even though she had to get up and go to work the next day. She celebrated every milestone he passed, she encouraged him when things got tough, she made sure that even though the cancer was eating away at his brain, that he had dignity. He was a man, not a child. Sometimes that was the hardest part for her; Not to treat him like a sick child. Because he was a man, he needed to make his decisions, even when she did not necessarily agree with them. She fought tooth and nail to get him insurance. She traveled over 100 miles every weekend to get Casey’s son Harrison, so he could know his son. She fought cancer every day even though she was cancer-free. When Casey’s battle started to turn, she never once gave up. She said Casey is not willing to give up and I’m not going to give up on him. By this time she had taken a leave of absence from work so she could be his caregiver 100% of the time. She arranged hospice, turned her living room into his bedroom, gave him his medications, she slept on the couch next to his bed for over 8 weeks because he would cry out at night and he needed his mom to hold his hand. She did this while still being a mother to Casey’s little sister and brother. I would come and visit every night after work, I could see how emotionally and physically drained she was, but she never gave up on Casey. I was there when Casey took his last breath. Teresa had her arms wrapped around him and told him she loved him, it was ok to go be with Jesus and he did. He passed peacefully, no more pain, no more suffering, but it was, I think, the beginning suffering for Teresa. The pain of everything, the pain of 16 months battling cancer, watching your child slowly slip away, mentally and physically. Instead of pulling away, Teresa went to every support group she could find. She was able to share her story with others. She was able to give and receive comfort. About 3 months after Casey’s passing, Teresa told me that she was given a prayer angel to help her when she was having a bad day. She was at work and found out a coworker had suddenly and expectantly lost her husband. She went up to her coworker and gave her the angel. She told her why it was given to her and how she felt like her friend needed it more now. Despite it only being 3 months, still with a broken heart she was willing to help comfort others. Months, then a year, now almost 2 years have passed, she still grieves, yet she still feels the need to give to others. I was very proud when she announced to me that she wanted to go to nursing school. She completed the necessary courses and was accepted into Methodist school of nursing. Her goal is to become a hospice nurse. She told me that she feels in her heart, that is what Casey would want her to do. Sometimes the life we planned is not the life that’s waiting for us. She never stopped being a fighter and now she wants to go into a career that will have her fighting for others. Her experience will help others. Cancer calls us to lean into a love we didn’t know possible. She has experienced that love as a caregiver and I know she will take that with her as she starts her new career. Someone once told her that it has been over a year now since Casey has been gone, she should feel better. She point blank said, “I will grieve for my son forever, you can’t put a number on how your heart should feel.” Today she is still doing things in his memory, especially with the Head for the Cure Foundation. She continues to help fight for a cure for brain cancer, in her son’s memory. Like I said in the beginning of my letter if there was one word to describe my sister is that she is a fighter. I would definitely want her to be on my team. I would proud if you would consider her for the Legacy of Love award.
Her Big Sis,