In January of 2021, Evan Rivera’s grandmother, Meryl, received a life-altering diagnosis: stage four peritoneal cancer and stage three lung cancer. Meryl’s diagnosis shook her and her entire family. A few weeks after Meryl’s diagnosis, the family gathered for a lunch that turned out to be an occasion forever etched in their memories— it marked the first time Evan witnessed his grandmother cry.
Early in her cancer journey, Meryl’s crossed paths with a gracious provider who guided her and her family through the challenging journey. Upon learning that cancer was advanced stage, they collectively decided on chemotherapy as the best treatment option to manage the severity of her symptoms. Though the initial rounds of chemotherapy went smoothly, as time went on, the side effects grew more severe, and Meryl’s quality of life began to fade.
With a prognosis of an estimated three months, Meryl’s primary goal became witnessing her grandson Evan’s high school graduation. With determination that knew no bounds, Meryl managed to do just that.
“She made it to my graduation and once I officially graduated, I hugged her and cried in her arms because I was so happy and proud that she was able to attend,” Evan reflects.
Despite her efforts to shield her condition from her grandchildren, it became increasingly hard for Meryl to conceal her challenges. In July 2023, Meryl’s provider grew concerned that the cancer might be spreading to her ovaries, prompting a temporary pause in her chemotherapy treatment. By August, her health further deteriorated, resulting in frequent hospital visits. Toward the end of August, the doctor shared that chemotherapy was no longer a viable option.
Evan last saw his grandmother in hospice care in the hospital where he was able to express his final heartfelt words to her, sharing “I’m so proud that I’ve been able to call you my grandma.” On September 5, Meryl passed away peacefully in the presence of those who loved her most.
“Though she may have lost her battle with cancer, I am so proud of her and my whole family who made sure they supported her through a rough time,” Evan shares. “Towards the end of her journey, the stress for me and my family was so high, but we all came together and made sure my grandma was at peace, which is what she deserved.”
To her family and medical team, Meryl had an adventurous spirit and sharp mind, two of many qualities they will not soon forget about her. “My grandma was a true inspiration—my superhero without the cape. Without her in my life, I would not be the person I am today,” Evan reflects.
As a grandson and caregiver, Evan recognizes that his grandmother’s story is not just one of inspiration— it is one that can live on through his advocacy. “My goal is to remind others that simple checkups can save your life,” Evan affirms.
This special bond between grandmother and grandson illustrates the lasting impact of supporting a loved one through difficult moments and finding a voice to empower others so that their legacy will always live on.