Imagine missing those major milestones in your child’s life. Her first day of school, school and university graduation or her wedding. For a mother, these days are special in a way that almost defies words.
Terminal cancer isn’t stopping one Wisconsin mother from staking her place in her daughter’s memory. Heather McManamy was initially diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2013. In August of 2014 doctors gave her a terminal diagnosis. Part way into nine rounds of chemo (she’s currently on her fourth), McManamy says that the cancer has spread across her body – invading her liver and bones. While she isn’t ready to say her final goodbyes, she’s already planning on a legacy to leave behind for her now 4-year-old daughter Brianna: A series of greeting cards.
Not one to miss any special occasion, McManamy wants to be there for her little girl long after she isn’t. She’s bought and written out more than 40 cards, all with special messages and motherly advice. The cards range from everyday encouragement to major milestones such as the day that her daughter gets her driver’s license and her wedding. Covering all the bases, she’s even crafted a card for her daughter’s first breakup.
Source: Heather McManamy, Facebook
The cards don’t just cover future events. McManamy wrote out cards for her little one’s younger years as well, telling ABC News, “Every one of these that I get to hand out in person will be an accomplishment.”
With no cure for her cancer, this mum’s heartfelt greetings are meant to comfort her family during what will be a very sad time. Telling WMTV that she doesn’t mind if her daughter reads the letters, McManamy understands that these physical mementos of her love may become painful reminders of the loss that her family will suffer.
Despite her diagnosis, she’s focusing on living life in the right-now. Even though this mum’s card project provides care and comfort for years to come, she’s still trying to have the fullest life possible while she can. She told BuzzFeed, “While treatment options are dwindling, I’m still here.” Just because the doctors have labeled her terminal, this mum is still fighting for time with her family. While she’s realistic about her condition, her cards aren’t a way of giving in to the disease. Instead, they are her way of preparing for the future.
While McManamy spends what time she has left with her family, expenses from her inability to work are mounting. Along with the costs of everyday life, the family’s growing medical bills have led to a GoFundMe campaign. Donations from this campaign won’t only help to pay for day-to-day finances, but will also go towards funeral costs, purchasing a freezer to keep ready-made dinner in, a camera to capture precious memories, a memorial and eventually Brianna’s college tuition. Recently, the family has been able to by Brianna her first pet through the funds. As of July the GoFundMe campaign has brought in more than $38,000 from generous supporters.
For now the McManamy’s are spending as much time together as they can. Although the cards provide the comfort, advice and encouragement of a mother’s love for years to come, Heather and her family are using their time together to the best of their abilities. According the family’s GoFundMe page, they’re trying to spend as much time away from hospitals and scanners as possible – hoping to visit Disney World and Kalahari waterpark. While Brianna might not have her mother physically there for every high and low of life, McManamy will live on in the heart of her family through their memories and her cards. Along with the cards, she has written letters, made videos and created recordable books for Brianna.
Even though sadness weighs on this family of three, McManamy does see the special side of their situation. She told BuzzFeed News, “Most people just die and that’s it. I have been given the gift of time to prepare. To do whatever I can to make this easier on my family.” Her decision to go public with her very private story wasn’t made in haste. McManamy hopes to inspire others to follow her lead in the face of the fragility that life holds.