Tuesday, August 04, 2015
Remembering Christy White
Leave it to Christy White to greet her last days with a barrage of selfies.
The pictures of herself and her loved ones came after fate had played a cruel trick on Christy. After fighting ovarian cancer, she was declared cancer-free late last year, but a subsequent examination showed she had three brain tumors.
She was told she had only a month, maybe two at the most, left to live. At that point, she decided to reverse an earlier edict against having any pictures of herself taken as she fought the disease and began sharing the selfies- photos taken of her with her family and friends.
During the first several weeks after the diagnosis, she jammed in as many activities as she could, creating more memories in a life already filled with significant accomplishments. As the cancer took over, her energy wavered, but her spirit never did.
In a June 12 Facebook post, one day away from the four-month anniversary of the fatal pronouncement, Christy wrote, "At that time, we were told I may only have a month or two, but today, here I am. I was very fortunate.
"I so enjoy the cards I receive and the pictures, posts, and messages on Facebook. It means so much to me that I still feel like I'm a part of what's happening."
More than three decades have passed since the automobile accident that eventually propelled Christy and her parents, Joe and Joyce Cruzan, into a spotlight they never sought.
On January 11, 1983, Christy's sister, Nancy Cruzan, was in an automobile accident while returning home from working the night shift at Schreiber's in Carthage. She was left in a persistent vegetative state, which meant that while her body continued to function, the brain was incapable of conscious action.
The only thing that kept Nancy alive was a feeding tube.
After years passed with no change, the Cruzans began a lengthy legal battle to receive permission to remove the feeding tube. The case went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, the first right-to-die case it had ever heard.
The court's opinion was a mixed blessing. While the justices agreed there was a right to die, that right did not necessarily apply to Nancy Cruzan. The case was returned to the venue in which it had started Jasper County Circuit Court in Carthage.
After testimony from Christy and a former employer from Tulsa provided evidence that Nancy would not have wanted to be left in a persistent vegetative state, the judge ruled on December 12, 1990, nearly eight years after the accident, that the feeding tube could be removed. Two weeks later, Nancy died.
Realizing that the battle was not over and wanting to keep other families from facing the obstacles hers had faced, Christy formed the Nancy Cruzan Foundation, which helped other families who found themselves in similar situations and encouraged people to draw up living wills. She took her message all over the country and had a profound impact as thousands began to take care of end-of-life decisions and leave directions for doctors and family members on what to do should the unthinkable happen.
In her later years, Christy continued to educate the public, but in a more traditional way, working in special education at Webb City Junior High School., where her daughter, Angie Broaddus, is the principal.
The last Christy White selfie came on July 23, with her two daughters, Angie, and Mercy Hospital official and Joplin City Council member Miranda Lewis.
The end came Sunday for Christy Cruzan White, who died at age 59. Christy, who spent so much of her life fighting for her sister's right to die and working to help other families who faced end of life and quality of life decisions, spent her last six months showing people how to die.
But just as importantly, she showed them how to live.