A celebration of life for 29-year-old Lee-Anne Peters was held last Tuesday.
Peters and her friends stole the Cowichan Valley’s hearts in the summer of 2012 when the tight-knit group announced Peters’ early onset Huntington’s disease was progressing and with no family in Cowichan, and rather than her moving away for care, her friends vowed to support her as long as they possibly could.
Huntington’s disease is a genetic degenerative condition that chips away at a person’s physical, emotional, and mental being.
“Basically it means that over the years, it takes about 22 to 25 years to slowly kill a person,” Peters said in a 2012 YouTube video describing her condition. “It gets to the point where you basically can’t walk at all and you’re completely hospitalized and eventually if you don’t die of any accidents, which many people do, you die of starvation. That’s how my mother died.”
Peters was just 16 when her mom died of the hereditary condition at the age of 43. Two years later, Peters learned she had the same disease.
A “Summer of Lee-Anne” crowdfunding campaign was set up to raise money for Peters and her caregivers. That summer of 2012 was special. Peters had a summer to remember: bungee jumping naked, skydiving, visiting a tall ship, running through a cornfield, and an epic Tofino trip, to name a few.
Since then, Peters tried to live a full life, scratching as many items off her bucket list as she could.
Her supporters made good on their promises and she was cared for through the endless love and effort of friends and family supported by community fundraising right up until the end, often turning their own lives upside down to ensure Peters got what she needed, or wanted.
It became clear, however, that her time was coming to an end.
“Lee-Anne had been enjoying a wonderful week of music and love with her father Frank, step-mom Wendy-lady, and her sister Lisa,” said friend Erin Kapela, who had been spearheading fundraising efforts and playing the role of spokesperson for years. “Lee-Anne’s health was deteriorating rapidly and this was not unexpected. Each day the something else seemed to go and her body was shutting down.”
Peters got her wish to dying comfortably in her sleep, in her own bed at home. It happened early in the morning of Aug. 14.
“She knew she was dying and she had come to a place of acceptance realizing that she would not live to see her 30th birthday,” Kapela said. “We will miss our feisty little pirate immensely. I am personally very proud of the how this team was able to support Lee-Anne to live her way right until the very end.”
Peters was predeceased by her mom Tracy and nephew Caiden. She leaves behind her father Frank Peters, step-mom Wendy Verbeek, sister Lisa Peters. brothers Ryan Peters and Robin Guertson, as well as brother-in-law Rob Schmidt, sister-in-law, Jennie Imeson, and nieces and nephews Jack Peters, Evan Guertsen, Alaina Peters, and Isabelle Mackinaw.
Lee-Anne’s care team was very much an extension of Time To Heal.
All of her caregivers were clients and one of the main reasons they were able to support Lee-Anne to the end of her life was because of the support, counselling, guidance, and treatments provided, according to the Time to Heal Community.
“At the end it was hard,” the group said. “The caregivers were stretched to their max, exhausted physically and emotionally after every shift. They would often leave Lee-Anne’s house and come collapse on the couch at Time To Heal for encouragement and guidance.”