A Beautiful Legacy

"I'm sitting here looking at your high school graduation picture," wrote Steve Swiger in an open letter to his wife, Sharon, after cancer took her life this April.

"You are a beautiful, loving, caring person I will cherish forever," he added, echoing the feelings of so many in Geneseo who knew his wife of 39 years.

Friends and family agree Sharon was a lovely woman with a strong spirit. Her diagnosis 13 years ago with breast cancer brought many trials, beginning with a mastectomy and later, chemotherapy that caused all her hair to fall out.

“My daughters and I went with her to buy a wig," Steve recalls, “but when she got it home, she decided she just didn't like it. We found out about the American Cancer Society's program that gives out free wigs. She received one that she really loved."

Steve liked the new style, too. “I caught a glimpse of her when she got home and said to myself, ‘Who's that good-looking lady?' She looked 10 years younger and it made her feel great."

Like all caregivers who look after loved ones facing cancer, Steve remembers every step of the journey. He's grateful that Sharon could receive treatment at home on the 200-acre farm where they raised 4 children and welcomed 4 grandchildren. Support from the Society's Northwest Regional Office in Rock Island provided an extra measure of comfort, he says. “Their caring and attention made a real difference during the last 2 years of her life."

Sharon had the best possible treatment, Steve believes. But it wasn't enough to stop the growth of her cancer. When her life ended, Steve published his love letter in a local newspaper. He received countless calls from neighbors, friends and family, many of whom asked how they could best remember her.

“We knew what she would want," Steve said. “She had planned her funeral and told us she wanted funds to go to the American Cancer Society."

We thank Steve Swiger and his family – David Swiger, Kerry VanNieuwenhuyse, Angela Bardsley and Jamie Swiger -- for their visionary gift.  Their generous donation, gathered from friends and family, will continue fighting cancer for generations to come. 

If you have lost someone you loved to cancer, you may be looking for ways to remember their courage and spirit. The Society's Mosaic gives you a place to create a special tribute with photos and memories of your loved one.