A tribute to the woman who touched so many
by Paula Levy
published: February 16, 2005
The first time we met Rosanne Himmelman in June of 2003, she was continuing her fight with metastatic colon cancer. Through periodic updates, Rosanne shared her experience. This is part 12, the final instalment of her journey.
Rosanne's journey came to an end at the family's Wileville home in the evening hours of February 8 when the 38-year-old succumbed to metastatic colon cancer. After battling the disease since 2001, Rosanne Himmelman could fight no longer.
Those who knew Rosanne felt a tremendous loss when her struggle came to an end. But none felt it greater than her parents, who adored and loved their eldest child.
Rosanne was the only daughter of Lester and Maxine Himmelman. They compared her death to a light that has been extinguished.
"She was always a blessing, a bright light in my life," said Maxine, saying the two were best friends as well. "She was my angel. We were so close. I loved her so much." She said from the time Rosanne was born, she was a tower of strength and unselfishness and always went out of her way to ensure her family didn't worry.
"She never caused me one moment of worry in her life," said Maxine. "I don't think I ever had to scold her."
Maxine described Rosanne as a serious child who was always mature for her age and looked out for those around her.
Her instincts to watch over the people she loved started with her two younger siblings, Chris and Lester. Although Lester, the youngest, died 12 years ago, Rosanne and Chris remained close.
"She was very protective. She looked over them," said Maxine.
With Rosanne's maturity came her independence. From working to buy her own school clothes to putting herself through university to achieve a dual-major degree, she never wanted to burden anyone, not even her parents. Maxine said Rosanne maintained the philosophy that she would always be self-reliant, no matter what life brought her.
From working in her chosen field in Halifax, to landing a job with Heinz Canada's pet food division, Rosanne maintained professional integrity and strove for perfection in her work.
Colleague Marshall Klevorick, of Ontario, said it was an unhappy client that necessitated a chance meeting. But he said her magnetic personality paved the way for a 10-year friendship. He said her work ethic was second to none, calling her a "sharp" businesswoman who was extremely creative. Marshall said Rosanne had an admirable ability to motivate co-workers, simply through her personality.
"She was a positive person ... who always saw the glass was half-full. That was contagious. ... Being with Rosanne was medicinal," he said.
But Rosanne received her medicinal necessities from her oncologist Dr. Danny Rayson. She had great respect and trust in him because it was Dr. Rayson who offered her hope when no one else would.
The two met in 2001 when Rosanne was forced to leave her job in British Columbia because of her illness. Dr. Rayson said after speaking with her oncologist in Vancouver, he was doubtful there was anything they could do for her. But his mind soon changed.
||The late Rosanne Himmelman (1966-2005) became an inspiration to many people on the South Shore. Paula Levy photo
"The moment I walked into her room in the hospital I knew she was someone special," said Dr. Rayson. "I was doubtful that anything could be done to meaningfully reverse the disease that had rendered her bedridden. [But] After 10 minutes with her, I knew we had to try and, more importantly, Rosanne knew she had to try."
That attempt at prolonging her life meant that Rosanne lived over three years longer than expected. But the extra time she was given, she refused to waste.
Dr. Rayson said Rosanne's irrepressible sense of humour and style and her determination to live life to the fullest was inspiring to everyone around her. He said despite her own sickness, she continued to help anyone who reached out to her.
"Her dedication to other patients in her community, even as she suffered, was humbling," added Dr. Rayson.
Her determination, unselfishness and willingness to help others could be spoken by anyone who knew her. At her funeral service on February 11, hundreds of family members and friends gathered to not only mourn her passing, but to pay tribute to her life.
Pastor Glendon Corkum of the Seventh-day Adventist Church became acquainted with Rosanne when she came home in 2001. He described Rosanne as a person who was unselfish and often took on the worries and problems of others.
"She lived for others. She poured herself into the lives of other people. And that's what made her so great," he added.
Her childhood friend Cathy Richards flew in from British Columbia when the news surfaced of her death. During her testimonial, she read a heartfelt letter she had written to her dear friend telling her of how she would miss her.
"She was everything to me. ... She was my life friend," said Cathy. She added that Rosanne was "resilient, a survivor, all through life. ... And I really appreciated her being in my life."
Long-time friend Ellen Cormier, of Thunder Bay, agreed. She met Rosanne in university and rushed to her side when Rosanne was first diagnosed and living in Vancouver. Ellen went to her to ensure the East Coast girl made it back to Nova Scotia to be with her family.
Ellen said one of the best things about Rosanne was she let the people in her life know that she loved them.
"She had your best interest at heart all the time," Ellen said.
Another long-time friend, Ann Power, delivered her eulogy at her funeral. She spoke to Rosanne's generosity. But it was her bravery that stood out the most.
"Rosanne was so brave," said Ann. "She faced everything with courage, determination and humour, lots of humour. ... She didn't want cancer to define her and it didn't. What defined her was the type of person she was."
Although Angie Brown, Camperdown, has known Rosanne for about 10 years, she became close to her a few years ago.
"Rosanne was a very special person," said Angie. "She was inspiring." Angie said she admired Rosanne's smile, kindness and her love for everyone around her.
Rosanne's death has left a void in the lives of everyone she touched. But she can be remembered by those who were fortunate enough to know her as a person who didn't need or want anyone to worry about her. Even during her last days, she maintained that she was okay.
Dr. Rayson said the last time he saw her, "she gave me a big hug, looked into my eyes and told me she would be okay. She was always right before and I have to believe that she was right this time too."
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