On New Year’s Day, family and friends of Heath Sammons gathered to celebrate the young musician’s life. May his amazing display of courage in the face of adversity be a comfort to those who loved him.
Heath died Christmas Eve, after losing his battle with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that affects children and adolescents.
On Feb. 25, Heath would have celebrated his 21st birthday. Even though he won’t celebrate that milestone celebration that marks one’s official entrance into adulthood, Heath was wise beyond his years.
I met Heath just over two years ago when I wrote a profile of him and the skateboard accident that proved to be a blessing because it revealed the tumor growing at the base of his spine.
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We were sitting around the family dining table — Heath, his mom, Karis Meier, his stepdad, Jim Meier, his brother, Colt, and several member’s of Heath’s band, which had just changed its name from the Allen Litchburg Experience to Kileva.
Heath was having one of his good days. Hope punctuated every sentence as he and his family explained the treatment options outlined by his doctors.
While I listened, I found myself constantly drawn to Heath’s eyes. There was a peace there despite the harrowing chemotherapy treatments he had to endure.
“It’s going to be OK,” Heath said. “Whatever happens, it’s going to be OK.”
Then Heath picked up his guitar and let his music flow.
The network of support surrounding Heath was amazing, including an extended family of relatives and friends far beyond his hometown of Palmetto.
His father, Lt. Gary Sammons of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, told me of his son’s profound courage, his deep faith.
Heath’s mom was his stalwart advocate. Karis told me that when Heath’s illness was finally diagnosed by Dr. Phillip Tally, she asked him what she should do.
“He told me, ‘Do your homework, Mom,’ ” Karis said.
And she did, becoming a walking encyclopedia on osteocarcoma, charting Heath’s treatments, doctor’s appointments, hospitalizations and symptoms on spreadsheets and color-coded calendars.
I know the days ahead will be hard for Heath’s family and friends.
Of course, there are no words that can ease that pain, but I hope they realize that during his brief time here, Heath taught others how vital faith is to living a full life.
Donna Wright, health and social services reporter, can be reached at 745-7049.