Photo: Chelsey Chambers and her husband, Dustin, are seen on their wedding day./Facebook
It’s a list that no one truly wants to have to write and especially not someone so young. However, when a 22 year-old local Fort St. John woman was diagnosed with terminal cancer on Aug. 20, 2010 she created a bucket list with the help of some of her friends.
Chelsey Chambers was a nurse at the Fort St. John Hospital, having graduated from the Licensed Practical Nurse program at Northern Lights College. She had also only just married her high school sweetheart Dustin. She was described as a sweet but sassy woman by her friend Neil Evans, a fellow nurse at the hospital.
Neil and Loni Evans were two of her close friends. Both helped organize a fundraiser for Chambers at the end of January 2010 to help with some of the costs associated with her travel, chemotherapy and radiation treatments in Vancouver after her first cancer diagnosis.
First diagnosed with tongue cancer on Dec. 3, 2009 after finding a lesion on her tongue, less than two weeks later, a partial glossectomy was performed where doctors removed part of her tongue. One week after the surgery, Chambers found lumps on her neck and doctors ended up having to perform a radical neck dissection and a lymph node removal.
After several weeks of radiation and chemotherapy treatment in Vancouver, Chambers returned to Fort St. John for a few months before a set of scans were done were done in Vancouver, one of her head and neck and the other of her lower body. The first scan was clear, but the second scan was anything but clear, says Loni Evans. The cancer had spread to her bones, liver, lungs, left hip and spine. Evans says it was on that fateful day in August that the doctor told her she had six to 12 months left to live.
Chambers and several of her friends decided to come up with a bucket list for her. Evans says the bucket list idea was obviously new to Chambers who only wanted to put down items like cleaning out her basement, but in the end, a list of different trips and new activities was decided upon.
The list included visiting the Liard Hot Springs, going to Dunvegan Gardens in Fairview, Alta. for its annual Christmas – her favourite holiday – in September, a trip to Las Vegas – where she apparently said she’d be able to see more of the world – and a honeymoon in Mexico. Although Chambers was able to complete the above activities, since the cancer began to affect her very quickly, she had to drop other items off her list like a trip to Europe to visit Scottish castles, a trip to Hawaii, and a Lady Gaga concert.
Loni Evans says one of her favourite memories of Chambers was when they were in the Liard area and a herd of buffalo was blocking the road. Despite numerous honks of the car horn, the buffalo still weren’t moving. Chambers then rolled down the window and yelled, “Come on, get the f*** off the road, I don’t have a lot of time here” and the buffalo instantly moved out of the way.
Just four months after her diagnosis and days after Christmas, Chambers’ passed away on Dec. 28. Her funeral was held at the Charlie Lake Church on Sunday where people were encouraged to wear pink, her favourite colour. Evans says her urn was even going to be put in a custom-made frilly pink bag to be lowered into the ground.
Although Chambers clearly touched a lot of people throughout her brief life, her legacy is carried on in memories, her abilities as a buffalo herder, and her last few months living out some of her biggest wishes.
Anyone wishing to make a donation can contact Neil Evans at [email protected]