A Pennsylvania teacher who decided to write her own obituary after finding out that her cancer had returned for the fourth time is encouraging her friends and loved ones to “stop letting insignificant situations stress you out” and “do what is important to you.”
Ashley Ann Kuzma died on Sept. 22 after being diagnosed with laryngeal cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, 29 radiation treatments and a laryngectomy to remove her voice box — all over the last two years. She had previously told GoErie.com that a scan in March revealed that the cancer had returned and that her treatment options were limited due to the previous treatments.
“When you have recurrent laryngeal cancer that just won’t take no for an answer, you have a lot of time to think about death,” she wrote in the obituary. “The good thing is no longer have to worry about saving for retirement, paying off student loans, or trying not to get skin cancer??? One positive outcome from having recurrent cancer was that it taught me to let go of the insignificant things and to just enjoy the people and places. After three recurrences, my body finally had enough and I passed away on Sunday, September 22, 2019, at the Cleveland Clinic.”
Approximately 13,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with laryngeal cancer each year. Risk factors include smoking or using tobacco products, drinking large amounts of alcohol, age, gender, personal history of head and neck cancer and occupations, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Symptoms typically include a sore throat or cough that does not go away, a change in voice, pain or trouble swallowing, ear pain, a lump in the neck or throat, problems producing vocal sounds, trouble breathing, high-pitched breathing, feeling like something is in the throat, or coughing up blood. It’s typically treated with radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.
Kuzma, who noted that she was a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and had received her Master of Education degree from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, wrote that she decided to write her own obituary “preceding her passing as part of the many preparations to make the transition easier on her family.”
The 32-year-old also wrote that she enjoyed spending time with her cats, reading, wine tasting, watching movies, boating, watching the Steelers and seeing sunsets. She also noted her travels to various places and how she traveled to Mexico to see Chichen Itza after she found out about her latest recurrence.
“I am extremely grateful for the life that I lived,” she wrote. “I was fortunate to have a loving family, supportive friends, a stable and meaningful job, and a house to call my own. My wish for you is to stop letting insignificant situations stress you out. Do what is important to you. Relax and enjoy the company of those around you. What do you value in your life? In the end, that’s what matters.”
Kuzma also noted that she thinks traditional wakes and funeral viewings are “too sad” and instead asked her family to host “a celebration of my life,” which will take place on Oct. 13.