Bailey Jean Matheson, seen here in Portugal, traveled the world after her cancer diagnosis. She wrote her own obituary before dying at 35.
Bailey Jean Matheson passed away on April 5, 2019, at just 35 years old from leiomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer in her abdomen. Having been diagnosed in January 2017, she was given only 12 months to live. The obituary might begin sounding a little too light-hearted for some as she states, “35 years may not seem long, but damn it was good!” It makes sense, though, when you realize that Matheson wrote her own obituary before she died. (1, 2)
Although it begins with an informal sentence, the rest of the obituary will bring you to tears. I know I cried many times writing this article. Matheson was only five years older than I am now. After initial treatment was unsuccessful, doctors believed that chemotherapy was unlikely to save her life. Matheson decided to forego chemo and instead live the rest of her life to the fullest. Chemo might have prolonged her life, but what quality of life would she have had?
In July of 2017, just six months after she was diagnosed, Matheson wrote a lengthy Facebook post encouraging others to advocate for their own health. She says ‘As some of you may know I’ve been recently been diagnosed with cancer, a Leiomyosarcoma to be more specific. I had gone to the doctors a few times and even to [the emergency room] because of a pain I would get in my stomach area from time to time. Not excruciating but uncomfortable pain. This had been going on for a couple of years and started to become more frequent.’ It was only after she pushed her doctors that she managed to get an ultrasound that finally showed something suspicious. This is what led to doctors finding her cancer. (3)
Matheson begins her obituary by thanking her parents for their unwavering support. As an only child, she knew that it was especially difficult for them to allow her to make this choice. ‘To my parents, thank you for supporting me and my decisions throughout my life. I always remember my mom saying losing a child would be the hardest loss a parent could go through. My parents gave me the greatest gift of supporting my decisions with not going through chemo and just letting me live the rest of my life the way I believed it should be. 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.’ (1, 2)
For her friends, she wrote: ‘To my friends, being an only child, I’ve always cherished my friendships more than anything because I’ve never had siblings of my own. 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. Thank you and I love you all so much.’ (1, 2)
Matheson met her boyfriend just three months before her diagnosis. Brent met Matheson on a dating website. She jokingly refers to this in the obituary by saying ‘You had no idea what you were getting yourself into when you swiped right that day.’ She goes on to write ‘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.’ (1, 2)
Matheson finishes her obituary with a short instruction we could all do with taking note of: ‘Don’t take the small stuff so seriously and live a little.’ It often takes a tragedy to remind us how precious and short life really is. So take the trip, make the leap, squeeze the ones you love, and live a little.