Student loses battle with cancer
Jessica O’Shaughnessy had planned to visit her friends Christa Settle and Kim Painter this Tigerfest weekend.
The girls would have a sleepover and catch up. O’Shaughnessy had moved home after the fall semester to be closer to the school at which she would be a student teacher.
But exactly a week before the concert, O’Shaughnessy had a seizure, her second of the year, and died.
“It really hurts that she’s not going to be there physically, but we all know she’s going to be there in spirit,” Settle said.
O’Shaughnessy, a 21-year-old early childhood education major, died April 21 at her home in Jarrettsville, Md.
She had battled thyroid cancer for 11 years.
The disease kept her small, a trait that Settle, who is also petite, said drew her to O’Shaughnessy when they first met.
Settle said they soon became close friends, adding Painter to become “the three musketeers.”
“She was just this very skinny, very small blonde person. She had this infectious personality,” Painter said. “She was so friendly and so open and comfortable around everyone.”
Because of radiation treatments, O’Shaughnessy had a weakened immune system. Her bones were fragile, and Painter said O’Shaughnessy could eat anything and not gain a pound. Despite her health issues, O’Shaughnessy remained positive, according to Painter.
“She was very much not about herself. She always wanted to hear what was going on in your life,” Painter said. “She always wanted to give guidance and be there for you.”
From bad breakups to stress from difficult classes, Settle said she could rely on her friend’s goofy personality to cheer her up.
“Any time I had any kind of problem or issue, she was one person I could call,” Settle said. “She would come over to my apartment any time. I’d call or text her at 1 a.m., and she’d come down and be there for me. She was so selfless.”
Settle and O’Shaughnessy roomed together in Towson Run in fall 2011, and Painter and O’Shaughnessy, both studying education, worked together on lesson plans.
“It was kind of funny, because Christa [was] just a photo major, and Jessie [was] just education. But I was art education, so kind we of complemented each other,” Painter said.
O’Shaughnessy was student teaching before she suffered her first seizure in February and had to withdraw from her classes, according to Painter.
Settle said all her friend wanted was to teach children. O’Shaughnessy had even told her friends that she wanted to adopt multiple children from different nationalities, even if she didn’t have a husband.
“She would have so many stories about all the little kids and what they would say,” Settle said. “They would draw her pictures and she’d put them up on wall. It was adorable. Kim said one thing really driving her now is she wants to teach for Jessie to honor her.”
On Wednesday, April 18, Settle spoke with O’Shaughnessy for the last time over Facebook chat and took away a life lesson of her own.
“The last thing she said was, ‘I want to be Peter Pan,’” Settle said. “She wanted to live forever and always be a kid. She was such a kid at heart.”