The new year is always a good time to make changes in your life, but this letter from a woman dying of bone cancer at the age of 27 may make you totally reevaluate it. Holly Butcher, a woman from New South Wales, Australia, knew she was in the last days of her life when she wrote a letter summarizing what she learned from confronting her mortality at an age when most of her peers were starting new careers and getting married. Grab a box of tissues and a stuffed animal, because you’re going to need them.
When she was 26 years old, Butcher was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer that primarily affects teenagers and young adults. Although the five year survival rate for patients whose tumors are still localized is about 70 percent, that number drops to 15 to 30 percent if the cancer has spread by the time it is diagnosed. Around one year after her diagnosis, as her cancer entered its final stages, Butcher began to reflect on how terminal illness changed the way she valued each moment. She shared her thoughts in a self-described “note before I die,” which she asked her family to post on Facebook after her death early on Jan. 4.
“It’s a strange thing to realise [sic] and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It’s just one of those things you ignore,” she wrote. “The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming… until the unexpected happens.”
In the letter, Butcher spoke honestly about her wish to live, admitting that she wanted to grow old with a partner and children “so bad it hurts.” “I’m 27 now. I don’t want to go. I love my life. I am happy..[.] I owe that to my loved ones. But the control is out of my hands,” she explained.
She went on to advise readers to “stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life” and keep in mind that death is inevitable — so make life worth it. She wrote: