The story of Rowena Darby will remind you today to be thankful for every moment you are able to spend with loved ones.
Rowena lives in Bolton, England, with her husband, Phil, and their 3-year-old son, Freddie. The couple welcomed Freddie into their world in June 2010. Months after giving birth, Rowena began experiencing severe stomach pains. Doctors believed the discomfort was caused by her pregnancy and prescribed strong painkillers. But after six months, she was still in pain. A round of screenings turned up nothing. Then in May 2011, she underwent a colonoscopy.
That June, a week before Freddie's birthday, Rowena learned that she had bowel cancer.
"I know it sounds odd, but I really wasn't shocked or devastated because I'd already suspected it, so I'd had time to process it," she told the UK's Daily Mail. "My main priority was to find out what treatment I could have to beat it."
Undeterred, Rowena desired to live with hope, not fear. Before undergoing treatment, she had some of her eggs collected and frozen.
But the family was dealt another blow in January of the following year. An examination found a cancerous cyst on her ovary. Rowena knew the odds were stacking against her, but refused to stop fighting. Doctors performed a pelvic clearance on the mother, removing her ovaries, uterus, part of her bowel, and abdomen.
Rowena's goal was to extend her life by as long as possible so that she could spend more time with her family. But it began to look likely that she would not live to see her son grow up. So Rowena began planning for the future in ways other than her will and funeral. During chemotherapy, she chose cards for her son's future birthdays. At each age, Rowena imagined what her son would look like, what advice she wanted to give him, and the memories she wanted to leave with him.
"It's so hard to imagine him at 21," she said. "I was watching a film yesterday where a young boy finds his first love, and I thought, 'Gosh, Freddie's going to be doing that one day and I'm not going to be around to see it.'"
So Rowena wrote cards for special moments too, like Freddie's wedding day. She might not live to see that day, but it only reminds her to treasure every hour she can spend with her son now.