Lifestyle & Human Interest

Age 32 Teacher Who Died from Cancer Wrote Inspiring Obituary Before Death


A Pennsylvania teacher’s pre-written obituary reminding her friends and family to only focus on what they truly value is spreading far beyond her immediate circle.

Ashley Kuzma, 32, passed away on Sept. 22 after battling recurring laryngeal cancer at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. As she prepared for her death, she wrote her own obituary to help make “the transition easier on her family.”

The high school gifted support teacher from Erie, Pennsylvania, wrote that her cancer would “take no for an answer,” so she had “a lot of time to think about death.”

“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 added jokingly.

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In 2017, Ashley began experiencing chronic throat issues that were making her voice grow more and more hoarse. She visited an ear, nose and throat specialist who discovered a growth on her vocal cords.

A biopsy in June 2017 determined that the tumors were malignant and she began radiation treatments.

The radiation treatments effectively made the tumors go away, but in February 2018, they returned.

In the following month she underwent a partial laryngectomy, but in August of that year tests showed that her cancer had returned for a third time — this time, in her salivary glands.

So in September 2018 doctors removed the rest of her larynx and she went through more radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Kuzma refused to stop teaching and in January 2019 she returned back to school and taught by pressing on the prosthesis that covered a permanent opening in her neck.

One of her friends nominated her for a contest through Norwegian Cruise Line for teachers passionate about helping their students love learning. Kuzma was one of the 30 teachers to win a free, 7-day cruise.

In March 2019, tests showed that her cancer had returned for the fourth time and that her treatment options were limited.

After learning her cancer had returned once again, she traveled to Mexico and saw Chichén Itzá, the Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula.

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“I am extremely grateful for the life that I lived,” she wrote after reminiscing on some of her favorite memories. “I was fortunate to have a loving family, supportive friends, a stable and meaningful job, and a house to call my own.”

But one of the biggest things she gained from her fatal cancer diagnosis was the opportunity to “let go of the insignificant things and to just enjoy the people and places.”

She wrote that her wish for her friends and family was that they “stop letting insignificant situations stress you out.”

“Do what is important to you,” she wrote. “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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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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