September 25, 2018

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Fighting spirit lifted those around her

Amy Cummine, 24, battled cystic fibrosis to 'savour every life moment'

Cummine rock climbing in Los Cabos. (Supplied)</p>

Cummine rock climbing in Los Cabos. (Supplied)

Amy Cummine had a will that could not be stopped, and a grace apparent to all those who knew her.

While her life was cut short at just 24, the experiences she packed into those years were enough to last a lifetime.

Her life was savoured to the last minute, and her hours filled with love and laughter. For all those fortunate enough to have known her, their lives were changed for the better.

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Amy Cummine had a will that could not be stopped, and a grace apparent to all those who knew her.

While her life was cut short at just 24, the experiences she packed into those years were enough to last a lifetime.

Her life was savoured to the last minute, and her hours filled with love and laughter. For all those fortunate enough to have known her, their lives were changed for the better.

 

Born in Winnipeg on Nov. 19, 1993, the only child of James and Glenna Cummine, Amy was quickly diagnosed with cystic fibrosis — a genetic disorder affecting the lungs. She spent the first month of her life in the intensive care unit at the Health Sciences Centre.

"She came out fighting. We knew we would take our baby home. We just didn’t know how long we’d have her for," Glenna Cummine says.

Amy Cummine with her horse Queen. (Supplied)</p>

Amy Cummine with her horse Queen. (Supplied)

The average life expectancy for a child diagnosed with CF at the time was 12 to 14 — many didn’t make it into adulthood. Since her birth, the amount of people living with CF in Manitoba has hovered around 100.

"Sadly, that number stays pretty constant, because for every birth there seems to be a death," James Cummine says.

Amy Cummine’s diagnosis was a rough and rapid introduction into the unfair and unwarranted challenges of life. In the face of this, she was one of the most positive and upbeat people you could ever meet, often more focused on the struggles of others than on her own.

"I think she inspired and touched a lot of people. She always asked you how you were. No matter what state she was in, it was always more important for her to find out what was going on in your life and how she could help you," her mother says.

From an early age, her family got involved with fundraising for CF research. In partnership with former Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Troy Westwood, the family began an annual charity drive, run out of their home.

Between the ages of three and 18, Cummine was involved with (and co-hosted with Westwood) the Breath of Life Ladies Golf Classic, which over the years raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for CF research.

While her diagnosis played a major role in her life, shaping the child, teenager and young woman she was to become, Cummine never let it define her — and she didn’t let it slow her down.

Cummine vacationing in Hutualco.</p>

Cummine vacationing in Hutualco.

Her athletic pursuits included baseball, badminton, dance and horse riding, all of which she took on with a fierce competitive spirit. In particular, spending time with, and riding, horses became a favourite pastime.

"I think it was about the relationship that she developed with her horse. She just enjoyed being with people and the horses at the barn, as much, if not probably more, than the actual riding. She cherished those relationships and every opportunity she got," her father says.

Lorraine Parrington, a family friend who first met Cummine as a child and developed a special bond with her, said she remembers — and remains astonished by — the wisdom she had from such an early age.

"There was a wisdom about her, a certain depth of knowing or understanding. She had this amazing ability to really savour every life moment," Parrington says.

"I just learned so much from her about how to treasure and cherish every moment that you have, every breath that you have. She just did it with so much incredible grace. She just had that old-soul, wise-beyond-your-years thing."

At the age of 19, while pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher, Cummine contracted a resistant bacterial infection. It posed significant health challenges, putting her education degree on hold.

Nonetheless, she didn’t let that stop her from working. She became an educational assistant, and managed to make a tangible impact on the lives of the students she came into contact with.

Cummine in the backyard pool.</p>

Cummine in the backyard pool.

In the last year of her life, as her health was deteriorating, Cummine began organizing and planning her own celebration of life. In part, it was an effort to make her death easier on her parents.

"One of the reasons she prepared her own celebration of life was to try to alleviate the weight on Glenna and James. And she also wanted to plan a tribute to them. I really think that speaks to who she was as a person," Parrington says.

"Even with all she was going through at that time, she still wanted to make sure she took time to appreciate the parents she had."

Cummine passed away July 8.

One of Cummine’s fears, according to her mother, was not many people would show up at her celebration of life. She shouldn’t have worried.

"There were 500 people there that day. She wanted there to be tears, and there were. She wanted there to be laughter, and there was lots of that. And she wanted to leave people with a message," her mother says.

"That message was: ‘Live your best life, share your experiences with the people who mean the most to you, and make every moment count, because one day those moments are all going to be memories.’"

And that is exactly what Amy Cummine spent her life doing.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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History

Updated on Saturday, September 8, 2018 at 7:10 AM CDT: Photos added.

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