Parents Plan Funeral For 10-Yr-Old With Cancer. Then She Opens Eyes And Says 7 Words
Cancer Took Her Life, But Her Words Live On
Sweet on the Outside, Tough on the Inside
Throughout her life, Cindy had tremendous energy and kept in contact with many in her wide social circle, whether by a short note, a small gift, or an offer to help in some way. She loved attending events, having parties, and generally making people feel special.
This was the exterior people saw — the “candy coating.” We have also known her to have a strong will, her “chunk of granite.” If she wanted something to happen, she would put a surprising amount of effort into ensuring her desired result.
During her extended battle with cancer, Cindy refused to let it or chemotherapy dictate her life. She willed herself to stay positive and to be a bright light in the lonely battle with this disease.
Cindy's writing, and the feedback she received from so many who read her journal, helped her understand that she was not alone in this journey.
Here are two excerpts from Cindy's journal:
March 13, 2011:Monday, time for a routine echo and Thursday a complete echo (whatever that means), and then Friday a big day, meeting with Dr. Haley to discuss our plan of action. Then, a week from Monday, my first treatment. Yeah! The attack will begin! Sprinkle in the midst of all that spring break for Tony, happy birthday for Joey, happy St. Patrick’s Day with green beer, visits with some dear old friends (no, not old in that way!), and much more. There will be a lot of happiness and celebration mixed in with some discomfort, all contributing to happily ever after!
July 24, 2011:Someone asked if I’d had a good day. My reply was, “If you consider drinking about 16 ounces of thick fluid, being poked with an IV, lying down and being run through a tube, and then having someone press really hard as they run a wand over your chest for 30 to 45 minutes a good day, then I guess I had one.”
Cindy also decided to take action to show that there are options. She became active in the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network and in Susan G. Komen for the Cure, even forming a team to participate annually in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk to raise money for research. She believed that there was always hope and that quite often there can be a positive response to a negative situation.
Our Experience as Caregivers
Through this book, we also wanted to share our experience as caregivers, trying to find the right balance in what to say and what to do. We tried to read Cindy’s subtle signals. For example, she loved contact and interaction, but when that interaction ceased for a day or two, it was a sign that she needed space to process or work through something.
Other helpful means of support included attending to Cindy’s everyday needs: giving her rides to appointments or church, getting our son where he needed to go, supplying basic grocery items, and having the house cleaned.
Especially as the treatments continued over a long period, it was helpful to have distractions — emotional breaks from the conflict. Examples included dinners out, funny movies, and inspirational books. Cindy also enjoyed visitors during her “chemo cocktail hour,” even if they just sat with her while she napped.
These are simple and somewhat obvious ways to help, but they can be easily forgotten when looking for just the “right thing to do” to support a loved one.
Finding Strength Through Faith
Cindy strived to be positive and strong while dealing with the heavy burden of knowing her life would be cut short. She found strength through her faith, through trusting in God’s plan — not ours — and by praying for the wisdom and vision to discern which is which.
Cindy chose to make the most of every day she was given. Through cancer, she actually had more of a positive impact on other people’s lives. It was not in our plan for her to leave us early, but the lessons and love that were shared were far greater than what we could have imagined. She used this terrible situation to do as much as she could for others. Sadly, many of us don’t give this too much consideration until we are faced with a life-changing event.
This life lesson also had a strong influence on Cindy’s son Tony (above, right). When she passed away, he didn’t express anger, but rather pride that through her faith, his mother had made a difference in so many lives. Cindy was planning to ultimately be with God in heaven. That is what she believed, and that is what she wanted all of us to understand.
Life is a gift, and this was her gift to us. We hope that through her words, you will find the faith to accept each day as the gift it truly is, and that perhaps your story can be a shining light for others to see.
Joe Colangelolives in Carrollton, Texas, and works as a senior principal engineer. He is originally from Port Chester, New York, and Cindy was from Miami, which often influenced their vacation choices.
Ellen Elamis a business owner in Houston. She has been involved with numerous breast cancer organizations, including Baylor College of Medicine's Neiman Marcus Stiletto Strut committee, Susan G. Komen, and Pink Door.
Photos provided by Joe Colangelo.
Top: Cindy Colangelo participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day.
Middle:The Colangelo and Elam families.
Bottom: Cindy Colangelo with her sons, Jesse and Tony.
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