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Breast cancer victim leaves behind electronic love notes

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Lisa Thalhimer handled many things in life with a great sense of humor.

“No matter what she was going through, she had something funny to say,” Lisa’s friend Claudia Biegler said.

“She was funny and had a great sense of humor,” her husband of 35 years Bobby Thalhimer said.

Bobby Thalhimer can relive his wife’s wit through emails she wrote as she fought a very aggressive form of breast cancer called Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

In December 2008, a doctor saw the tumor on a mammogram, but Thalhimer said the doctor didn’t think it was cancer and that Lisa could wait three months before having it checked again.

But the tumor grew rapidly. A biopsy revealed it was, in fact, cancer.

Thalhimer said Lisa started emailing family and friends almost immediately.

Lisa was a creative writer and Thalhimer said her post-cancer emails were some of her best writing.

“It was entertaining,” said Thalhimer.  “We learned how her chemo visits were turning into parties. Some of the funny things that would happen.”

The emails also chronicled Lisa’s struggles during treatment, both the physical and emotional.  

In one called “Shaking the Daisy’s Neck,” she wrote about wanting to strangle a smiling daisy on a hat she’d been given. Instead, an email revealed, she learned a greater lesson.

“The Happy-Face Daisy and I are friends again,” she wrote in an email. “I just needed to change my thinking. An hour of writing and Mission Accomplished!”

“It was a moment of revelation for her that she had to be responsible for how she was going to handle this even though she was feeling awful,” Bobby Thalhimer said.

Lisa handled many tough treatment decisions with humor as well.

“Ta-ta to the Tatas!” was an email she wrote about the choice to have a double mastectomy to reduce her chances for re-occurrence.

“I hate to see them depart without a tribute to the girls,” she wrote. “They’ve been with me so long, showing up at such an early age when I was still a tomboy and furious that I could no longer play shirtless.”

“She decided if that’s what it takes to survive that’s what I want to do,” Bobby Thalhimer said.

But Lisa didn’t survive.

She died from breast cancer in the spring of 2010.

She was 55 years old.

She lives on in her emails.

“Reading them every night was like looking into her soul,” Biegler said.

Biegler and other friends gave Lisa’s emails to Bobby as a gift.

“It was her book. And she always said she was going to write a book,” Biegler said.

They are a book now, sort of. 

Bobby created an online manuscript to help raise money for one of Lisa’s other passions – children’s literacy.

He said readers will also discover another part of Lisa’s legacy, a reminder of the importance of early detection. While Lisa’s cancer was diagnosed at a later stage, her sister’s was caught much earlier.

“Early detection can make a difference,” Bobby Thalhimer said. “If her story helps with that, then it’s worth telling over and over again.”

Click here for more on Lisa’s Story.

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