Dying teen in Indiana holds FUNeral to celebrate a life well lived

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CARMEL, Ind. — A teen facing terminal cancer is focused on living well during her final days.

The 17-year-old has been through a tough fight.

Diagnosed with a rare bone and tissue cancer, Ewing’s sarcoma at age 12, Miriam Sawka has been fighting ever since.

After several relapses, the teen has been told she has just a few weeks left to live.

“I am really at peace,” said Sawka. “I’ve processed it very quickly and I’m ready.”

17-year-old Miriam Sawka

After years suffering painful treatments, needles, and nausea, Sawka made the decision to leave the hospital to spend precious time with her family.

Sawka hosted what she called her FUNeral to celebrate her life with family and friends. She labeled it “a party to die for” with food, music, games and a living funeral service.

“I wanted to say what I had to say to people — I wanted to say goodbye,” she said. “Funerals are for the living. I wanted the party to be about me living.”

Sawka said the entire palliative care team at Riley Hospital for Children, including her palliative caregiver, Amy Hatton, has helped her keep the focus on living well until death.

“It’s really scary,” said Sawka. “We went to living so far ahead in the future, just making plans and everything, to living day to day and almost even minute to minute.”

The nurse practitioner first met Sawka in February, and has been by her side ever since.

“She’s been through a lot,” said Hatton. “There are certainly patients that come along who you have a connection with that’s just different for whatever reason. She’s such an amazing young woman and I’m truly grateful for the things she’s taught me.”

17-year-old Miriam Sawka

“Amy is really awesome,” said Sawka. “She’s helped me through a lot of very difficult situations and she’s always been there. I met her on day one, and she’s been awesome in care since then.”

Sawka is celebrating Christmas early this year, on Thanksgiving, to make sure she’s able to spend the holiday surrounded by the love of her family.

“To have the time to say ‘I love you’ and to make memories and spend time together, it’s so important.”

The Sawka family

Sakwa said she is at peace with death and is looking forward to seeing her grandpa, uncle, and great grandmother.

“I believe Heaven is real and even’t if it’s not, I’ve lived a great life. I think my faith has helped me live a good life.”

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