When Heather McManamy’s cancer metastasized, she
decided to write cards to her daughter
She wrote a card for every milestone she anticipates for
Writing the lifetime’s worth of letters was a way for
McManamy to regain control of her life,
It was a grim realization for Heather McManamy
when she discovered during an echocardiogram that the
breast cancer she fought so hard against had
Her stage two cancer, which was diagnosed in April
2014, had spread. There was cancer in her liver, bones,
even her skull.
“It was pretty much everywhere,” the 35-year-old
McFarland, Wisconsin, resident said.
The young mother already knew there was roughly a
50-50 chance she would have a cancer recurrence before
age 50, but she didn’t expect it to happen at the tail end
of her initial treatment.
She and her husband, Jeff McManamy, were in shock
when they learned the news, and spent hours walking
through a grocery store, just to process the information
before they went to pick up their 4-year-old daughter,
“When it was time to pick up Bri, we had a normal, fun
night and made the decision that we’d take it one
moment at a time.”
She and her husband started planning around her
Since McManamy’s doctors couldn’t give her a
guarantee of how much time she had left, she created a
memory box for her daughter. She stuffed it with trinkets
and cards, dozens of them. She raided a Hallmark store
and got a card for every big moment she could think of
that Brianna would go through.
Her hope was to create a lifetime’s worth of greeting
cards for Brianna.
The project was daunting to start. But she wanted to
write down as much as she could, and after she was
gone, her husband would share the cards with Brianna
as she reached different life milestones.
“I have cards for every possible thing,” she said. “I have
a card for her first beer, her first love, her first
heartbreak. I have advice for when she gets married and
when she has a baby.”
In the span of a few months, McManamy has written 50
cards. In the process, she has managed to keep Brianna
from finding out about the cards so they will be a
Writing to her daughter transformed into a kind of
therapy for McManamy. Her new goal is to see Brianna
go to kindergarten next fall and hand her a card.
“I just wrote as if I was still here. It was really
comforting. I felt like I had some sort of control, like I
could be here with her when I’m gone.”
The couple also started a GoFundMe page to raise
money for a grand trip to Disney World, which they took
in September, and for funeral expenses and Brianna’s
college fund. The campaign has raised about $30,000
and McManamy has been overwhelmed by the support
she has received from strangers.
There is no way for doctors to predict how well she will
respond to treatment. The median life expectancy for
McManamy’s situation is around 18 months.
She has burned through her treatment options quickly
and recently found out that her liver was functioning at
But McManamy has realistic hopes for her future and
wants to cherish each day with her family.
She was inspired to share her story about the project for
her daughter because she hopes others will try to live in
the moment, too.
“Most people my age are naive to the unfairness of the
world and how fragile life is,” she said. “I am here today,
but nobody is guaranteed anything beyond that.”