You Will Always Be Enough
On August 21, 2015, Anna Cummings began her sixth 3-day 60 mile journey. Anna’s birthday has always fallen around race time, and she turned 16 on the last day of her first Susan G. Komen 3-day in 2009 (you have to be 16 years of age to participate), and that walk across the finish line holding her mom’s hand on her 16th birthday is a memory she will always treasure. Her fifth walk in 2014, would be during her mom’s final days. When Anna returned home from that walk — a walk that has become part of her life, part of her family — she spent an hour with her two sisters, Carley and Lizzy, and her father, Steve, talking to and holding her mom’s hand. They watched her take her last breath that night. She had waited until she knew they were with her, the walk was over, and Anna was a day past her 21st birthday.
Anna proudly states, “I walk in honor of my mom. I walk so no one will have to watch a loved one suffer from a disease so terrible. I walk in hope that no mother will have to sit her children down to tell them she has cancer, or that it’s back yet again. I walk for new medicine that will heal. I walk so cancer will not steal your mom like it stole mine. I walk because everyone deserves a lifetime. And I will keep walking, because I can’t walk away.”
Living a Life with Cancer At the ripe age of eight years old, Anna would hear her mom Laurie say, “The doctor told me I have cancer.” Anna is the eldest of three girls in the family. Her sister, Carley was five, and the youngest, Lizzy, was just a little over two months old. It was an invasive cancer which required chemotherapy, radiation and many surgeries. She was in remission for seven years but in 2009 (when Anna first did the walk with her mom), the cancer had metastasized. It went to her bones (hip and spine), which lead to a hip replacement, more chemo (11 or more different drugs) and more radiation. After that, the cancer never really “went away”. There were times when scan results would show that the cancer was shrinking, which would give us a slight glimpse of hope. Other times, the results would show more spots, bigger spots. Later, the cancer spread to her brain, then to her uterus, a couple years later, her lungs, and lastly, her sacrum. It was taking over her body. You Make Me Smile Throughout her 12 years of fighting, her doctor never let Laurie lose that slight glimpse of hope – even when the results didn’t show much hope at all. Her doctor and her faith played an integral role to her positive attitude and outlook on life. One that would be passed down to all of the girls. She never let the cancer define her. She would ingrain in her children that nothing in this life should keep you from following your dreams and making memories. She taught for as long as she could, and took every opportunity to travel with her family. From Mexico to camping in the Black Hills and annual trips to a family cabin, she would not let the amount of pain or weakness she may have been feeling stop her from making more memories and taking more pictures together.
Towards the end of the courageous battle Laurie stayed true to herself and her girls. She sang, danced, smiled, and told them she loved us as much as she could. Anna remembers sitting next to her bedside during one of her final days and while she wasn’t talking much, she managed to look up and her and sang in a whisper “Oh, you make me smile,” the lyrics from the Uncle Kracker song, “Smile.” Painting Through it, for it and Beyond Her mom inspired her with the words to also be read at her funeral, “I am so proud of you Anna, and what a strong and beautiful woman you have become. The career you have chosen, Anna, will not only benefit your life, but the lives of many others. I know you will be a strength and comfort to Carley and Lizzy, and to Dad, and I thank you for that. But remember my dear Anna, to have fun…to pursue your hobbies…for you are a wonderful, wonderful artist. Find plenty of time for that, and a reason to laugh, and friends to love and be joyful with.” While Anna was home by her mom’s side taking care of her in her last days, she focused on those things and her art. She painted and continues to paint beautiful inspiring quotes to bring joy to your home. She does so with passion, and knowing that it would cause her mother such pride.
Giving Back Anna had been to many radiation treatments with her mom. Her mom made friends with her chemo nurses and radiation therapists and Anna loved that. During her senior year of high school, Anna shadowed a radiation therapist at Fairview Ridges in Burnsville where her mom had many treatments. She knew she could see herself doing that someday – making a difference in the lives of patients. Her mom’s radiation therapists (along with many others) helped to keep her alive as long as she was and Anna wants to give other families that opportunity as well. Anna says “I want other kids to be able to spend as much time with their loved ones as possible. Whether it’s saving a life or putting a smile on a patients face, I want to make a difference and that’s why I chose this career path.” After taking a year off of school to take care of her mom, Anna returned to the Radiography Program at Mayo School of Health Sciences at Mayo Clinic this August. When completed in a year, she will apply and hopefully continues into the Radiation Therapy Program at Mayo School of Health Sciences at Mayo Clinic.
She will continue to make her mom proud, and do what her mom did amazingly and that is light up a room with her smile, faith and joy for life.
Sharing your personal story can provide solace to yourself and inspire, motivate or comfort others.
“Don’t let cancer define you. You are bigger than cancer. My mom touched countless numbers of lives. She loved to travel to new places with her family and make memories. She loved spending time with friends. But most of all, she loved to laugh. She had the ability to light up the room and bring joy to all of those around her. Her faith was rock solid and her heart filled with gold. She had an incredible amount of life in her, even when her body was dying. If I could give advice to anyone, it’d be to live like Laurie. You are a fighter, you are a hero, and you will always be enough. Face each day with a positive attitude and live your life to the absolute fullest no matter what, just like Laurie did.”