My tragic girl sent me a letter from Heaven
Teresa Mccormick, 36, Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland
Listening to my 11-year-old daughter Courtney singing like an angel, tears sprang to my eyes. She was crazy about Justin Bieber and she wanted to perform
Favourite Girl for me on her X-factor juke. ‘Well done, Darling, that was great!’ I clapped enthusiastically as she stood beaming in the middle of our living room.
That was Courtney all over, always trying to make me smile. She was a typical girly girl, her room plastered with Justin Bieber posters and white butterflies.
As Courtney grew into a teenager, she doted on her brothers Cayden, now five, and Kaige, six. And she was my best friend, always looking after me.
In March 2016, when Courtney was 16, she started complaining about a pain when she swallowed.
She he was revising hard for her GCSES so our GP put it down to stress or acid reflux, but mother’s instinct told me something just wasn’t right.
‘Enough’s enough,’ I decided the next day when she came home from school crying, struggling to even swallow water. ‘We’re going straight to A&E.’
We were in and out of hospital as doctors ran tests.
‘We’ve We’ve found a 2cm tumour on Courtney’s oesophagus,’ an oncologist explained. ‘It’s small cell carcinoma, an aggressive type of oesophageal cancer.’
Cancer. The word no parent wants to hear. I gulped hard, trying to hold back tears. But Courtney saw my pain.
‘Don’t worry, Mummy,’ she soothed, always trying to look after me. ‘I’m going to get better, you
wait and see.’
Courtney underwent a four-and-a-half hour operation at Craigavon Area Hospital and spent 10 days in intensive care. Weeks later, my lass insisted on sitting her GCSES.
Then came the real test - six rounds of chemotherapy.
‘Mummy, I want to donate my hair to the Little Princess Trust,’ Courtney told me. ‘I don’t want it to fall out on my pillow.’
Like ike most teenagers, Courtney’s long blonde hair was her pride and joy. My heart swelled with pride at her bravery.
We made an appointment at our local hairdresser, T1 Hair and Tanning Studio, and I took Courtney shopping for a pretty wig and colourful bandanas. The stylist arranged the cut and shave in a room without any mirrors, then carefully styled her wig to look just like real hair.
The aggressive chemo really took its toll. My beautiful girl was so sick and her weight plummeted from 11st to just 7st in a matter of months.
After her fourth round of treatment, she couldn’t take any more, and doctors agreed she could stop early as the cancer had gone.
The following year, 2017, she was back to being a normal teenager, hanging out with her mates and going to the cinema with her boyfriend Corey. A lovely lad, he’d been by her side through the whole ordeal.
I snapped so many photos when he took her to her school formal, carefully pinning her pretty corsage to her wrist.
But at the back of my mind there was a nagging fear. What if the cancer came back?
In January 2018, my worst nightmare came true.
‘I have a pain in my side, Mummy,’ Courtney explained, rubbing her kidney area.
Our oncologist confirmed my fears. The cancer was back, in Courtney’s lung and liver.
And tests showed that this time it was terminal.
Courtney drew up a bucket list
of things she wanted to do, including date nights with Corey, a flying lesson, a family barbecue and a girly spa weekend with me. T Then her hair salon owner phoned me. ‘We’ve been doing some fundraising,’ she said. ‘Would you be offended if we bought tickets for you and Courtney to go to Disneyland Paris?’ Magicaltimes
So, in March, Courtney and I flew to France. I hate rollercoasters but decided to make an exception for my girl. As we plunged into a dark tunnel. all I could hear was Courtney wetting herself laughing as I was screaming in terror.
But Courtney was fading fast. The cancer was spreading like wildfire.
Corey moved in. I was so grateful he’d helped my girl experience true love - some people never get that. He slept in Courtney’s room, while she stayed on a hospital bed in the living room and I slept beside her on the sofa.
On 14 May 2018, my beautiful daughter drew her last breath, with me by her side singing Favourite Girl. Growing her angel wings at just 18 years old. Before efore she died, she’d made two bears for her brothers at the Build-a-bear workshop, recording her voice into the voiceboxes so every time their tummies were squeezed, the boys would hear Courtney saying ‘I love you’. She’d also written cards to be opened on their 18th and 21st birthdays. And there was more… On the day of the funeral, Courtney’s words rang out in the chapel to a standing ovation. ‘Remember me as the girl who looked cancer in the eye and said, “Bring ring it on.” on. Remember me all glitz and glam, because that’s how I’m living it up here in Heaven. ‘Cancer took the one thing we don’t appreciate enough - time. But it also gave. It gave me the opportunity to say goodbye, it gave me perspective, tolerance, and showed me who my true friends and family are.’
She left something for me too, a bracelet with interlinked hearts. She bought two, one for her to be buried in and one for me to keep with me always.
And she’d written me a letter, to be opened after she passed. My own personal letter from Heaven. ‘I couldn’t have asked for a better mum, you were my best friend. Focus on the future because now, more than ever, the boys need you. I will be watching over you always and forever.’ I know she’s right so that’s what I’m doing. Every day when I wake up I remember she’s gone and my heart breaks, but I have to stay strong for Kaige and Cayden. I know my lass is watching over me just like she promised. Every day since her death, my garden has been full of beautiful white butterflies, Courtney’s favourite flower. Whenever I stand at the back door and think of her, a butterfly appears, fluttering from the sky, and I know she’s there.
Often, when I’m feeling really blue, I turn on the radio, only to find one of her favourite songs playing, sent from my angel to lift me up.
Courtney made the most of every moment she had, and now I know my darling lass is guiding me to make the most of my life.