A 42-year-old woman who died of breast cancer last month wrote her own heartbreaking obituary, in which she promised her four children she would always be with them.
Jessica Marie McKenna-Ryan of Nine Mile River, Nova Scotia passed away on April 23, 2022, following a years-long breast cancer battle.
She had first been diagnosed in 2020, and discovered it was back again in 2020 when doctors found a ‘baseball-sized metastatic breast cancer tumor in my liver.’
Though she admitted that she’d hoped her disease would ‘stabilize’ and she could go back to work — and have more time with her family, she eventually came to terms with the fact that that ‘wasn’t in my cards,’ so she penned her last words, which were published by the Ettinger Funeral Home.
Jessica Marie McKenna-Ryan of Nine Mile River, Nova Scotia passed away on April 23, 2022, following a years-long cancer battle
McKenna-Ryan began her obit by admitting there are ‘very few silver linings’ to having stage 4 breast cancer, but they include jumping the line for blood work, earning loyalty points at the pharmacy, and writing her own obituary.
‘I figure since I have capitalized on the first two perks, I would be remiss not to take advantage of writing my own obit, even though I am not entirely sure what tense of verbs to use,’ she wrote.
Reflecting on her life, McKenna-Ryan said that she grew up in Lantz, where she was the eldest child of John and Janice McKenna and has two siblings, Nick and Abby.
‘I have been often reminded by Abby that being the oldest child is only advantageous when you’re little. Given my current circumstances, I would have to agree,’ she wrote.
She had a bachelor’s of science in biology from Dalhousie University in Halifax, and also studied French Immersion at Universite Sainte-Anne and Universite du Quebec a Chicoutimi.
She worked as a police investigator.
She was first diagnosed in 2020, and discovered it was back again in 2020 when doctors found a ‘baseball-sized metastatic breast cancer tumor in my liver’
‘I love being an investigator and, even at the end of my line, I was still hopeful that my disease would stabilize so I could return to work in some capacity. Turns out that wasn’t in my cards,’ she went on.
But less important than listing her achievements was sharing words of love for her family, friends, and colleagues, whom she thanked for being such a great support system through her illness.
‘I hope that you continue to be there for my kids when I am gone. I would like you to help them remember who I am because I worry that they are too young to do so on their own.
‘I am also particularly concerned that I haven’t had enough time to instill the McKenna work ethic in them, so I am hoping it is more a genetic than acquired trait,’ she said.
She shared her love for her kids, her gratitude for her parents, and and her pride in her siblings
To her children, Elaina, Carson, Harrison and Jack, she said: ‘I want you to know I fought hard to stay with you for as long as I could. I love you so much. Life isn’t always easy, but it always goes on. Be strong, do your best and remember I will always be with you. I am not entirely sure how that works, but I feel like you will know.’
Much of her self-penned obit was spent sharing love and gratitude for her family, friends, colleagues, and healthcare team
To her mother and father, she wrote: ‘The experiences you gave us kids are worth so much more than any possession I ever owned. I hope that my kids will know what it’s like to do things as a family like we did: fishing, coasting, playing kick-the-can, the list goes on. I have leaned on you for support my whole life and you guys never wavered.
To her siblings, she said: ‘You made it easy for me to look like the good kid growing up, thanks for that. I am proud of the families and lives you have built,’ she went on, before asking her nieces and nephew to be ‘good role models’ for their cousins, her kids.
And to her husband, she said, ‘I never in a million years thought we would go down like this. Eventual divorce? Maybe. I have heard I am not the easiest person to live with.
‘But I never for a second thought our story would end in premature death. I am hoping that you have taken heed of all the not-so-subtle hints I have been dropping about managing the kids, the house, the vehicles, the yard, the finances, etc.’
She admitted she was a bit frightened to leave him alone because she has spent over a decade finding his keys and wallet for him.
‘I guess all I can do now is wish you luck — I think you might need it! Have patience with the kids,’ she said.
Finally, she shared thanks for the healthcare professionals who cared for her, including Dr. Fragoso, Dr. Younis, and her favorite nurses who supported her through her worst days.
‘If all has gone as planned, my body has been donated to science and I have already hosted my pre-death “FUN-eral,” unless covid or rapid disease progression (or both!) interfered with my plans,’ she added.
‘Hopefully it happened and you were able to make it because there will be no memorial service. If it didn’t, well, it was beyond my control — something I have had to relinquish a lot of since cancer and during covid.’
In conclusion, she encouraged people to ‘grab a handful of sunflower seeds and toss them out to the birds in your yard in my memory’ — and also urged them to book a mammogram.
‘You never know,’ she said.