Our daughter Ana Macias was born in Monterrey, Mexico on September 20, 1994 and was diagnosed with cancer when she was 10 months old. Though she was faced with obstacles every day, Ana never took anything for granted and always faced struggles with optimism and determination. Ana fought cancer until, at the age of 16, her body could not handle the battle anymore.
Before dying Ana left a letter in which she wrote:
See, the thing is, my biggest fear about dying is being forgotten. I know it sounds selfish, but it terrifies me to think that my life didn’t affect anyone. I want to leave a legacy. Someway, somehow, I want to leave a positive influence on those who knew me and maybe some who didn’t. I don’t necessarily mean to go start a foundation or something (although that would be cool, haha), just use me as an example to inspire people. Because I know there’s gotta be something in my life that someone can use to learn from.
Ana started building her legacy at the age of nine. She loved her art class and wanted to raise awareness about the need for arts education in schools, so she nominated her art teacher for the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) Barbie Arts Teacher of the Year award. Her essay was named one of 20 national finalists, and her school’s art program was awarded a $5,000 grant.
That same year, while we were in a hospital waiting room, Ana noticed that there were not enough books to read, and the only entertainment available was a TV and a few toys. Ana loved reading and wanted to share that joy with others. Her love for reading started in first grade when she read to kindergarteners during her recess time. She said that reading allowed her to go anywhere she wanted at any time. With the help of family and friends, Ana was able to collect more than 3,000 children’s books to donate to University Hospital.
Thanks to her gifts Ana was nominated for the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s 2004 Junior LiveSTRONG Carpe Diem Award. Even before dying, she asked if she could participate in a donor program. She donated her corneas to the San Antonio Eye Bank, giving the gift of sight to two people.
Ana reflected on her legacy in three marvelously touching letters to be read after she died. They were read by Father George Montague at her funeral service, and as we all cried, we were moved to action.
Ana showed us that physical impediments or limitations are not obstacles in the way of your dreams, they are challenges that make you stronger and better prepared to succeed.
Dr. Anne-Marie Langevin, pediatric hematologist/oncologist at UT Health San Antonio said that “Ana epitomized true strength, resiliency and the desire to live at the fullest despite the most incredible hardship. Her memory pushes me to continue a career in cancer clinical research so that children and adolescents like her have access to new therapies and get a chance to reach their full potential as contributing members to society.”
Ana defeated cancer by leaving us a legacy of perseverance, faith, hope and love. She reminds us to live life to the fullest and to seek out the good in every circumstance. She will always be our loyal daughter and friend, always honest and true, always fun and caring.
A life like Ana’s is worth honoring and remembering. With the help of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, family, and friends, we were able to dedicate the children’s area of the Parman Branch Library to Ana in 2012 and name it Ana’s Nook. We wanted to provide a place where children could read and dream like Ana did. Ana’s Nook continues to attract children of all ages, and you can see them reading books, playing with educational toys, and using the computers.
Cancer is the biggest killer of children from disease in the U.S. Over 15,700 children are diagnosed every year, and 38 children die of cancer every week. I may not be able to find the cure, but I can certainly help the people leading the research. Inspired by Ana, I decided to participate in the Great Cycle Challenge to raise funds to find a cure for children’s cancer. I am raising funds to support Children’s Cancer Research Fund to continue their work to develop lifesaving treatments and find a cure for childhood cancer. The fundraising campaign started Jan. 1 and runs through the end of the year.