Words: Elizabeth Di Filippo
A Canadian woman who died aged 35 after a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer is making headlines after sharing an important message: “Don’t take the small stuff so seriously and live a little.”
Before her death on April 5, Bailey Jean Matheson penned her own heartfelt obituary that’s now inspiring people around the world.
“Thirty five years may not seem long, but damn it was good,” the Cape Breton native wrote in an obituary published in the Chronicle Herald.
After years of stomach pain, Matheson was diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of soft-tissue cancer. Although treatable if detected early, Matheson’s symptoms were initially believed to be nothing more than digestive issues or muscular pain.
By the time she was diagnosed, the cancer had advanced, prompting her to make the difficult decision to forego treatment.
“I always remember my mom saying losing a child would be the hardest loss a parent could go through. My parents gave me the gift of supporting my decisions with not going through chemo and just letting me life the rest of my life the way I believed it should be,” she explained in her obituary. “I know how hard that must have been watching me stop treatment and letting nature take its course. I love you both even more for this.”
Matheson, who was an only child, thanked her friends whom she “cherished” as siblings.
“I never thought I could love my friends more than I did but going through this and having your unconditional love and support you have made something that is normally so hard, more bearable and peaceful,” she wrote. “Thank you and I love you all so much.”
In an interview with TODAY, friend Julie Carrigan said Matheson’s diagnosis was a “strange blessing in disguise.”
“Most people just go every day and take it for granted,” Carrigan said. “And when you get diagnosed with something like that, there’s no taking it for granted anymore. You just do everything you do and say everything you want to say.”
Matheson leaves behind her boyfriend Brent Andrews, whom she began dating three months before she was diagnosed with cancer.
“You had no idea what you were getting yourself into when you swiped right that day,” Matheson wrote. “I couldn’t have asked for a better man to be by my side for all the adventures, appointments, laughs, cries and breakdowns. You are an amazing person and anyone in your life is so fortunate to know you. I love you beyond words.”
After her diagnosis, Matheson travelled to 13 countries with Andrews and friends, including Ireland, Norway, Greece, France and Morocco. She also got the chance to see her favourite band, Coldplay, in concert twice.
“She was worried that those two years — if she was going through chemo — her quality of life during that time wouldn’t be very good, so she just went for it and did a lot of stuff that she really wanted to do,” Andrews said.
Matheson had been receiving counselling at a local cancer centre before her death. After her death, Andrews called to make himself an appointment, only to learn that Matheson had already made arrangements for one of the counsellors to call him, and help him with his grief.
While Andrews says Matheson would be “cringing” from all the attention, he also knows she would have been “humbled” to have touched so many people.