In the nearly two years that Carly Mesic was being treated for colon cancer, the young mom of three never lost hope.
But in June 2020, after learning her final treatment option, a surgery to fix damage within her abdomen caused by growing tumors, would be too dangerous, Mesic was sent home on hospice care. On June 8, 2020, the 37-year-old died at home, surrounded by her family.
"The entire time, she believed she would beat it," recalled Hilary Vickers, Mesic's best friend. The Mesics lived with Vickers while Carly went through treatment. "She wasn't ready and she didn't want to go."
Now, Vickers, along with Mesic's husband, Brian, and her children, Bryce, 15, Freedom, 9, and Brianna, 7, are asking for help celebrating Mesic's life by performing acts of kindness in her name on March 21, which would have been her 38th birthday.
Vickers recently shared a post to Facebook, offering to mail cards printed with Mesic's photo and the hashtag #CarlysCommission to anyone who wants to perform acts of kindness in their own communities in Mesic's memory.
"Not only do I want to continue her legacy of putting smiles on people's faces," Vickers told TODAY, "but I want to do it in a way where her kids can search the hashtag as they get older and know, 'My mom just made that person's day,' and feel proud."
"They are missing out on all the joy their mom brought to this world," Vickers continued. "Carly was the biggest light I've ever seen and the least I can do is my part to assure her kids always know what a difference their mom makes, not made."
Mesic shared her story with TODAY in February 2020, detailing symptoms like thin bloody stools, constipation and persistent abdominal pain, which she first ignored, that ultimately led to her being diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at just 35 years old.
At the time, Mesic urged others to "go to the doctor and get checkups" or "schedule a random colonoscopy" because colon cancer can exist in the body long before symptoms appear.
"It doesn't hurt and it's better to know you are in the clear than to have something come out of the blue one day," she told TODAY. "I never thought this could be me, people who know me never thought this could be me."
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S. and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in American men and women combined, according to the CDC. There has been a steady rise in cases in people under age 50. A 2018 report by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance indicated 41% of the more than 1,600 young-onset cases studied waited at least six months after experiencing symptoms before talking to a doctor, 80% of them had children under the age of 18 when diagnosed and 71% were diagnosed at stages 3 or 4.
Vickers hopes her best friend's warning will continue to be spread through #CarlysCommission.
"If this can happen to her, it can happen to anyone," said Vickers, "and since it's on the rise in the younger generation, people shouldn't think they're exempt because of age."
Vickers spent last March organizing a "Make March Memorable" effort for her best friend, making plans for special birthday celebrations and outings for Mesic and her family that were ultimately thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, she's planning a different type of celebration.
"As her birthday approaches I've been dealing with all the emotions and decided to bottle them into getting as many people on board as possible with doing random acts on her day," said Vickers. "What better way to celebrate her life than by doing what she always did by making someone else's day?"
"The added benefit is that if someone decides to share their joyful experience on social media using the #CarlysCommission hashtag, her kids will get to know about it, too."