Last month, my Aunt Anna passed. After being in remission for over 10 years, her breast cancer had returned and metastasized, unknown to anyone until Thanksgiving. It came as a shock, since everything seemed to be going well–and she was starting to make plans to celebrate her 90th birthday in May.
She was one of my favorite great-aunts, a woman I admired greatly for her poise, sparkling smile and ability to talk to kids of any age (I remember her being able to connect with me both when I was little, a teenager, and when I was older). She was interested in what the people around her were up to, a great hostess (I have special memories of a couple Cooper Family Christmas Eve parties at her and Uncle Jim’s home when I was little) and generous. While Aunt Anna and Uncle Jim were always wonderful about traditional gifts (graduation, wedding, etc.), I will always remember her most for sharing my cousins’ Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden collections with my sister and I, as well as ‘handing down’ silverware and plates when Barb and I moved into an apartment in college. The silverware served me well–traveling with me to Chicago, Los Angeles and New Orleans. While it is no longer our go-to silverware, I still have it, remembering who gave it to me and it makes me smile.
Aunt Anna and I also shared our experiences with breast cancer and she helped me understand that we have to advocate for ourselves when it comes to care and treatment–and that we have choices. She chose surgery and radiation 11 years ago, but not chemo. When she found out that the cancer had metastasized, she chose not to return to an oncologist. She dealt with stupid cancer on her terms–not rejecting care, but choosing care that worked for her.
I’m going to miss you, Aunt Anna.