Holly Butcher, a 27-year-old cancer patient from New South Wales, shared an inspiring letter to Facebook the day before she lost her battle with cancer. The brave Australian penned an open letter, leaving behind some life advice for her friends and family. Her final gift to the world, the thoughtful woman’s farewell letter has gone viral, touching the lives of not just friends and family but people across the world. Holly offers insight on how to live life to the fullest, what she realized mattered most and what she quickly realized didn’t matter at all. The Independent reported that Holly had been fighting Ewing sarcoma before passing away on January 4. Ewing sarcoma is a rare form of bone cancer that affects mostly teenagers and young adults.
Holly shares advice after learning about the heart-wrenching task of facing her own mortality. The 27-year-old reminds others to think about how lucky they are, to place value on time, to not get distracted by the screens of their phones or what’s happening on social media, to do more for others and she finished off with a plea to donate blood. Her inspiring words resonated with Facebook users from around the globe and the post has been shared more than 57,000 times.
“A bit of life advice from Hol” is how Butcher started off her Facebook post. “It’s a strange thing to realize and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It’s just one of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming; Until the unexpected happens,” wrote the 27-year-old dying cancer patient. “I always imagined myself growing old, wrinkled and grey- most likely caused by the beautiful family (lots of kiddies) I planned on building with the love of my life. I want that so bad it hurts.”
Butcher painstakingly shares what it’s like to realize the future you imagined for yourself is no longer a possibility. “I’m 27 now. I don’t want to go. I love my life. I am happy. I owe that to my loved ones. But the control is out of my hands.” Butcher continued, “I haven’t started this ‘note before I die’ so that death is feared – I like the fact that we are mostly ignorant of its inevitability.” Butcher explains the frustrating part about death is how it’s treated like a “taboo topic” that will never happen. She explains this is a difficult obstacle for a dying cancer patient who knows death is a sure thing. “I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bulls–t.”
Butcher wrote that she was penning the note in the middle of the night, when her thoughts on life would creep up on her the most. The 27-year-old explains that she’s had a lot of time to think about life: “Those times you are whinging about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s okay to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively affect other people’s days,” said Butcher.
“Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that – breathe.” Breathe, says Holly. Simple but beautiful advice from someone who understood the value of breathing, of how wonderful and fulfilling the simple act can be. “You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. Your new fake nails might have got a chip, your boobs are too small, or you have cellulite on your arse and your belly is wobbling.”
Butcher gives sound advice to appreciate all the stresses of everyday life, to embrace our imperfections and realize they’re not actually stresses or insecurities but insignificant details and a gift in disguise. Finding ourselves caught up in everyday stresses means we have the privilege of living our lives – something we should always be grateful for. “I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise – Be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things … until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them,” says Butcher.
“I tried to live a healthy life, in fact, that was probably my major passion. Appreciate your good health and functioning body- even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is. Move it and nourish it with fresh food. Don’t obsess over it.” When it comes to the trivial stuff, Butcher said, “Let all that sh-t go.. I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more Birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.”
Butcher puts into perspective just how important those closest to us are. Butcher shares that it’s our family and close friends we’ll appreciate most when we realize we’re going to lose them, and lose time we could have been spending with them. Butcher also stresses how important it is to love ourselves: “Remember there are more aspects to good health than the physical body…work just as hard on finding your mental, emotional and spiritual happiness too. That way you might realize just how insignificant and unimportant having this stupidly portrayed perfect social media body really is. While on this topic, delete any account that pops up on your news feeds that gives you any sense of feeling sh-t about yourself. Friend or not.” Holly wisely wrote, “Be ruthless for your own well-being.”
Butcher tells Facebook users to practice feeling grateful. “Be grateful for each day you don’t have pain and even the days where you are unwell with man flu, a sore back or a sprained ankle, accept it is sh-t but be thankful it isn’t life threatening and will go away,” wrote Butcher. “Whinge less, people! And help each other more.”
Aside from feeling grateful, Holly stresses the importance of being more generous. “Give, give, give. It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more. Since I have been sick, I have met the most incredibly giving and kind people and been the receiver of the most thoughtful and loving words and support from my family, friends and strangers; More than I could I ever give in return. I will never forget this and will be forever grateful to all of these people.”
On the topic of money, Butcher says, “It is a weird thing having money to spend at the end.. when you’re dying. It’s not a time you go out and buy material things that you usually would, like a new dress. It makes you think how silly it is that we think it is worth spending so much money on new clothes and ‘things’ in our lives.” She shares how trivial material things seem and how quickly you realize, at the end of your life, that the pursuit of tangible things like money is meaningless. “Buy your friend something kind instead of another dress, beauty product or jewelry for that next wedding. 1. No-one cares if you wear the same thing twice 2. It feels good. Take them out for a meal, or better yet, cook them a meal. Shout their coffee. Give/buy them a plant, a massage or a candle and tell them you love them when you give it to them.”
Butcher advises to “Use your money on experiences. Or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material sh-t.” And of course, Butcher stresses the importance of time. “Value other people’s time. Don’t keep them waiting because you are sh-t at being on time. Get ready earlier if you are one of those people and appreciate that your friends want to share their time with you, not sit by themselves, waiting on a mate,” penned Butcher. “Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water. Get amongst nature.”
On the topic of social media and technology, Butcher writes, “Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo…enjoy the bloody moment, people! Stop trying to capture it for everyone else.”
What else does Holly advise? “Get up early sometimes and listen to the birds while you watch the beautiful colors the sun makes as it rises. Listen to music, really listen. Music is therapy. Old is best. Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that. Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing okay? Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not. Work to live, don’t live to work. Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy. Eat the cake. Zero guilt. Say no to things you really don’t want to do. Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life, you might want a mediocre life and that is so okay. Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have. Also, remember if something is making you miserable, you do have the power to change it – in work or love or whatever it may be. Have the guts to change. You don’t know how much time you’ve got on this earth so don’t waste it being miserable. I know that is said all the time but it couldn’t be more true.”
Butcher finishes off her open letter by stressing the importance of donating blood: “If you can, do a good deed for humanity (and myself) and start regularly donating blood. It will make you feel good with the added bonus of saving lives. I feel like it is something that is so overlooked considering every donation can save 3 lives! That is a massive impact each person can have and the process really is so simple,” wrote Butcher. “Blood donation (more bags than I could keep up with counting) helped keep me alive for an extra year – a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend it here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life.”
The dying cancer patient ended off the open letter with “…’Til we meet again. Hol.” The brave 27-year-old has touched the lives of thousands of people who read and shared her advice with friends and loved ones, and the open letter continues to go viral on social media.
Over 13,000 Facebook users who read Holly’s honest letter said their goodbyes to Butcher, thanking her for her post. Those who knew Holly shared their memories of the 27-year-old and shared how much she will be missed. “Holly was the most amazing kind selfless person I have ever met!” a family friend wrote in the comments. “Her smile lit up every room she entered! She lit up my life I will miss her incredibly.”
Another user shared that Holly’s words had reached and touched the lives of another all the way in the South West of France. “Thank you for your inspirational words Holly. You’ve already inspired a lot of people you didn’t even know,” wrote another commenter. Some even shared their own experience of losing people they loved to cancer: “I lost one of my best friends to cancer five years ago, the pain has never gone away there will always be an emptiness in my heart for her. This letter was a very good reminder about things that really matter in life,” Facebook user Tami Bishop Sampson wrote.
Others commended Holly for her open letter: “What a strong young girl. To have the strength to write down words of advice in the midst of a battle with death. I’m speechless and committed to following her pieces of advice,” another Facebook user Jeremias Goldberg wrote. According to the Ewings Cancer Foundation of Canada, Ewing sarcoma is an aggressive type of cancer that affects bones or soft tissue. The cancer is mostly found in children, teens and young adults under 20, and sadly Holly became a victim of this terrible disease. Holly wrote, “That’s the thing about life; It is fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right.
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