Sarah Rose Cumming, 33, died Dec. 6

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Sarah Rose Cumming, 33, a 2008 graduate of Rockbridge County High, died Dec. 6, 2023, of an astrocytoma brain tumor, the last of a series of cancers she had survived since age 14.

A singer-songwriter and journalist, Cumming refused to be defined by her cancers. These began in 2005 with osteosarcoma that left her right arm diminished, but right hand free to finger-pick guitar. The bone cancer metastasized to the lungs, and after successful surgery, she developed acute myeloid leukemia. That was overcome with a successful cord-blood transplant in 2008.

While working for the New York Times Syndicate in 2015, two years after college, a grand mal seizure revealed a brain tumor. With two surgeries and proton radiation in New York, doctors found Cumming carried a rare gene mutation correlated with all four of those cancers.

“Haven’t gone much with conversation upon cancer these months,” she wrote in August on her Tumblr blog, sarahtrainsbrains. “Face to face, it’s hard to tell the whole spew of frightening labels to someone new, for it has not been in my face so much despite all this recent evidence of doom. To get used to it through the years is… it.”

Sarah Cumming was born in Atlanta on Nov. 11, 1990. She moved to Lexington with her family in 2003, graduated from the University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn., in 2013, reported for Blue Ridge Country magazine, did hang-gliding and worked at Lookout Mountain Flight Park, and worked at the New York Times Syndicate.

Since 2015, seizures from the brain tumor prevented driving and employment. That’s when she had more freedom to walk everywhere, be with and make friends, write poems and sing her songs, and in countless ways, test the power of natural resilience against cancer.

Multitudes who knew her, for long or only in a brief encounter, spoke often of her special “light and grace.”

Her former history professor at Sewanee, Woody Register, put it this way: “In my mind and heart, there is no other person like her, and I cherish the gift of being a small part of her life for a handful of her luminous 33 years.”

“Sarah needed teachers as little as anyone I've ever known, only the support of following along to see where she took us,” Register wrote. “Brilliant, determined, stubborn, vocal with her opinions, compassionate, joy-loving, she saw and intuited things that never occurred to the rest of us.”

She spent her final four days, as she wished, among family members in the North Georgia mountain lake home she loved all her life.

She is survived by her parents, Douglas and Elizabeth Cumming of Decatur, who both worked at Washington and Lee University for many years, and two older brothers, Daniel (Sami) Cumming of Austin, Texas, and William (Alyssa) Cumming of Fancy Gap.

 

 

 

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