I Love Life: Remembering a Woman of Faith
When she was 13 years old, Tansy Forbes was a normal teenager. “I was a country school kid getting ready to go into town school in Ainsworth, Nebraska. At the time, I was practicing for cheerleading tryouts and had a lot of pain in my lower right leg. At first, we thought it was growing pain or shin splints. The pain just didn’t go away. So, we saw an orthopedic physician in Grand Island, Nebraska. At first, he told us it was a benign tumor. Several days later, he called and told us it was a malignant tumor and we needed to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.”
Life as Tansy knew it at the time was about to change. “After several days of testing, sure enough it was a tumor called Ewing sarcoma, a bone cancer in my lower right leg. I was treated with 18 months of chemotherapy and 3 months of radiation.”
That turned out to be a life changing experience for Tansy. “I was getting ready to go into high school and I really didn’t have town school friends. Other than my family, I didn’t have a strong support system. For whatever reason, I decided to wear a wig, which was really stupid. But, I was so self-conscious as a 13 year old that’s what you do. It turned out to be more than a hassle than it was worth. That was the toughest time for me. What really helped back then were my family and our faith in God. It’s always brought us closer together.”
Unfortunately, Tansy’s battle with cancer was far from over. While in college, X-rays confirmed the tumor was back. If that wasn’t enough, her right leg had to be amputated above the knee followed by 9 months of chemotherapy. “At 21, I was a senior at college and very active on campus. I was the president of my sorority and really thought I had the world at my fingertips. In the fall of my junior year, the pain in one of my legs was pretty intense. That’s when they found out I had osteogenic sarcoma, or radiation-induced bone cancer. Although that was really hard, my support system was great. The students at the University of South Dakota, my sorority sisters and my family were all there for me. It was an awful time, but yet it was also a great time. The support system was phenomenal!”
In spite of the amputation and chemotherapy, the cancer posed another threat for Tansy as an adult. In the fall of 1999 Tansy was diagnosed with myelodisplastic syndrome, a form of leukemia. She underwent a stem cell transplant with cells donated by one of her sisters. That was a tough six to seven months of treatment and recovery. After being relatively healthy for 4 years, the cancer came back again. Tansy was treated for the Acute Myeloid Leukemia in the fall of 2004 and underwent a second stem cell transplant. The cancer proved to be untreatable. This time, the cancer was terminal. “My doctor didn’t tell my husband Jason and me he couldn’t do anything. He did give us our options. The recommended chemotherapy was going to be pretty hard on my heart. My heart, because of all the previous treatments, wasn’t as strong as it should have been. After we finished talking about the chemotherapy, Jason and I asked the doctor what the chances are if I undergo chemo. He told us it was less than a 10 percent chance I would be cured. Without even having a big discussion, we knew right then and there chemo wasn’t for me.”
Not knowing how much time she had left, Tansy told me the cancer inspired her to live everyday as if it’s her last—an attitude that Tim McGraw sings about in his hit song, Live Like You Were Dying. ”One day, I was driving in my car and called Jason. I told him, ‘you know, I think I’m going to go skydiving.’ He said, ‘go for it.’ Really, Tim’s song isn’t about death. In my mind, it’s about how everybody should live. We should cherish everyday and do those fun things. Don’t make a list and put it off. Make a list and do it! I also have to give a plug for my faith. I’m not afraid of the future. I’m not afraid of dying. But, my heart breaks for Jason. We’ve been married almost 9 years and he’s my everything. People still think we’re newlyweds. That’s the hard thing. But, I know I’ve got a bigger party in Heaven and it’s just the heartbreak of leaving my loved ones and friends behind.”
No doubt about it! Tansy Forbes, who passed away August 10th, 2005, embraced life with a strong and courageous spirit. These words reflect what the young woman would encourage every one of us to do. Live life with an attitude of gratitude and never take it for granted. This poem is dedicated to the memory of Tansy.
“Happiness is the way…so treasure every moment that you have…and remember that times waits for no one! So stop waiting—
Until your car or home is paid off.
Until you get a new car or home.
Until your kids leave the house.
Until you go back to school.
Until you finish school.
Until you lose 10 pounds.
Until you gain 10 pounds.
Until you get married.
Until you get a divorce.
Until you have kids.
Until you retire.
Until summer/Until fall/Until winter/Until spring/
Until you die.
There is no better time than right now to be happy.
Happiness is a journey, not a destination.
So, work like you don’t need money, love like you’ve never been hurt
And dance like no one’s watching!