March 2014 marked the third anniversary of my daughter Queah’s (pronounced Quaya) death. Like so many of you who have lost people close to you, I have spent the last three years trying to find ways to properly honor her. She had the ability to touch people in positive ways. There’s part of me that wants people to know that her life had meaning. I am sure you can relate to that.
The first death anniversary I was mostly in shock – still in disbelief that she was gone. In fact, I was expecting her to walk in the door at any time and say “Mom, I’m sorry I left”. That first year I simply gave a donation in her name to a charity. The second anniversary I vowed to do something I thought was really meaningful. Before she died she wore wigs to compensate for what chemotherapy had done to her hair. So that year I went out and bought several wigs and donated them in her name to a local hospital. While many of my friends said it was a wonderful thing to do – I did not get the feeling I was hoping for – especially since the hospital had a stockpile of wigs already. Little did I know they had all shapes, sizes, colors, textures, lengths – you name it – they had it. I drove away from the hospital that day feeling so defeated.
I remember when we first found out Queah had colon cancer. She forced me – and I do mean forced – to do a couple of TV news stories on her and her battle. I thought it was way too personal but I reluctantly agreed. I honestly didn’t have much of a choice – she was never the type to take “no” for an answer. She believed it was imperative to warn young people – those in their 20’s to not be fooled that colon cancer is only a disease for older people. She wanted me to use her as the example. Looking back, she was right considering she was misdiagnosed a couple of times and when the cancer was finally recognized in the late stages doctors were surprised by her young age – barely 27. Even during some of her sickest moments she would tell people young and old not to be afraid to get screened.
Months ago I went to Austin Kellerman, my news director at Fox16 and asked if we could do a series of stories on colon cancer in March. I thought it would be a good time to educated people to the signs, symptoms and dangers of the disease. And yes – also a good time to remind people that my little girl was diagnosed so very young with no known family history. I also thought it would be a good time to let people to know that I am beginning to see many others under the age of 50 – when most medical insurance will pay for screening – getting this disease. As we talked about it, Austin suggested maybe we could do news stories and much more to raise awareness. He was right.
On Saturday March 29th at 10am Fox16 and I sponsored a community-wide free yoga event. It’s affectionately called “Donna Terrell’s Yoga Warriors Fighting Colon Cancer. Queah began doing yoga during her illness because it made her feel better. Some Cancer Hospitals offer Yoga for free as a way to release stress and get exercise. While the event was free we accepted donations for the American Cancer Society. Breezy Osborn from Barefoot Studios donated her time to conduct the Yoga class and Lululemon Athletica in The Promenade in West Little Rock supported our efforts. We had cancer survivors, people who lost loved ones to cancer and people young and old participating. We raised over $2100 dollars for the American Cancer Society. Finally, a purpose. A true and meaningful purpose.
Maybe you were able to watch all of my colon cancer awareness stories on Fox16 News. I met several survivors of this disease young, old and in between. I met and interviewed oncologists, gastroenterologists and surgeons who echo the same message – colon cancer is the most treatable disease if caught early. They remind me that we’re all in this fight together. I know in my heart Queah would be thrilled that we’re making a difference. We’ll do it again next year and every year after.