“35 years may not seem long, but damn it was good!” Bailey Matheson started the sentimental missive where she thanked friends and family for their support through her last few years. In January 2017, Matheson was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that affects smooth muscle tissue, and later found out that it was terminal. But when she was told that she only had two years left to live, Matheson decided to make the most of that time, which meant forgoing any treatment.
“To my parents, thank you for supporting me and my decisions throughout my life,” the only child wrote. “My parents gave me the greatest gift of supporting my decisions with not going through chemo and just letting me live the rest of my life the way I believed it should be. I know how hard that must have been watching me stop treatment and letting nature take its course.”
It wasn’t only her parents that were by her side. She gave heartfelt thanks to her friends, who she often refers to as her chosen family, as well as her boyfriend, Brent Andrews, who she had met on a dating app just three months prior to her devastating diagnosis.
“You had no idea what you were getting yourself into when you swiped right that day,” Matheson joked.
However, Matheson’s best friend, Julie Carrigan, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the people in Matheson’s life never felt that their friend’s diagnosis was a burden. Instead, they all felt lucky to have been a part of her journey.
“Her deciding not to go through with treatment was completely her decision, because it’s her body and her life,” Carrigan says. “She wasn’t giving up by not doing treatments, she was creating a better quality of life for herself. Her happiness was the most important thing.”
According to Carrigan, Matheson’s happiness had long come from traveling, which is what she set out to do in the time that she had left. With her loved ones by her side, Matheson went to 13 countries, including Portugal, Spain, Greece, Croatia and Ireland. She even did a group girls trip to Chicago with 13 of her closest friends.
“We all got heart tattoos while we were there, that Bailey drew, so we would always have her heart with us wherever we go,” Carrigan says.
For Matheson, these experiences seemed to make her feel at ease when the rest of her life was no longer in her control.
“I never thought I could love my friends more than I did, she wrote, “but going through this and having your unconditional love and support you have made something that is normally so hard, more bearable and peaceful.”
Just a few days after Matheson’s passing on April 5, Andrews posted a sweet tribute to his girlfriend of nearly three years on his Facebook page with a photo from one of their special trips. And although he wrote that Matheson “would be cringing at all of the attention,” he and Carrigan agree that the viral recognition has been amazing and humbling.
“She was one of the most caring, genuine, selfless people I had the honour of knowing,” Carrigan said. “I think I can speak for all that love her when I say we aren’t surprised that she would touch so many across the world with her words that are straight from her heart.”
As for how Carrigan and friends will continue to honor Matheson’s legacy, her friend said that she’ll be taking Matheson’s advice when she wrote, “Don’t take the small stuff so seriously and live a little.”