"What do you value in your life? In the end, that’s what matters.”

By Korin Miller
October 08, 2019

A Pennsylvania teacher who battled laryngeal cancer for four years wrote her own obituary—and left behind some advice that everyone can learn from.

Ashley Ann Kuzma, 32, died from laryngeal cancer—or cancer in the tissues of the larynx—on September 22, according to GoErie.com; but not before she wrote her own obituary. Initially, Kuzma wrote her obituary to "make the transition easier on her family" following her death, but included some universal advice that has gone viral.

"When you have recurrent laryngeal cancer that just won't take no for an answer, you have a lot of time to think about death," Kuzma began her obituary. "The good thing is I no longer have to worry about saving for retirement, paying off student loans, or trying not to get skin cancer," she joked.

But, according to Kuzma, "one positive outcome from having recurrent cancer was that it taught me to let go of the insignificant things and to just enjoy the people and places."

Kuzma was first diagnosed laryngeal cancer in June 2017, according to GoErie.com, after chronic throat pain and hoarseness led to a biopsy, which found growths on her vocal cords to be cancerous. After 29 radiation treatments, Kuzma's tumor went away, but returned in February 2018, for which she had a partial laryngectomy in March 2018. 

In August 2018, her cancer returned again—this time as mucoepidermoid carcinoma, or cancer of the salivary glands. Kuzma had a total laryngectomy in September 2018, per GoErie.com, along with 30 radiation and five chemotherapy treatments. But, once again, for a fourth time, Kuzma's cancer returned in March 2019—this time, with limited treatment options. 

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"After I found out my cancer was back for the fourth time, I went to Mexico and saw Chichen Itza," she wrote. "I am extremely grateful for the life that I lived. I was fortunate to have a loving family, supportive friends, a stable and meaningful job, and a house to call my own."

Kuzma ended one portion of her obituary with some universal lessons: "My wish for you is to stop letting insignificant situations stress you out," she wrote. "Do what is important to you. Relax and enjoy the company of those around you. What do you value in your life? In the end, that’s what matters.”

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After mentioning her family members, friends, and pets—both living and deceased—Kuzma made a special request for her memorial: “Since I think viewings are too sad for everyone, I requested that my family host a celebration of my life," she wrote.

Kuzma’s Legacy.com page has been flooded with comments. “Thank you Ashley for those profound and beautiful words,” one person wrote. “From one educator and animal lover, you are a woman I wish I could have known. I will take your advice seriously. May God bless you and your family forever. May you have peace and happiness in the next life. Beautiful life,” another said.

Kuzma’s celebration of life will be held on Sunday.

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