The first time I heard the name Lizzie was a year ago.
My husband, fiancé at the time, moved to Lufkin just in time to gift the upcoming seniors with an extra early wake-up call. He barged into houses around 6 am, shaking the seniors to life and inviting them to a celebratory breakfast. As expected, the new 12th graders responded with varying degrees of emotion– from fist pumps to fist fights.
Besides the girl who he found in only a sports bra, I can only recall one story specifically. Maybe I should have known she was special from the beginning.
Walker, delighted to be the sleep intruder, called to tell me tales about the success of the morning meal. He couldn’t stop laughing as he described one situation involving ‘this awesome girl.’
As he awoke ‘this awesome girl’ she refused to get out of bed. Over and over again she rejected his invitation to partake in the breakfast party with her friends. Begging and pleading made no difference. She wanted to sleep, and nothing was going to change her mind.
Finally, after relentless badgering, ‘this awesome girl’ who had rejected Walker’s every plea asked her deciding question.
“Will there be bacon?”
With what I imagine to have been the grin of a lifetime, Walker answered.
With the promise of bacon, she got out of bed and made her way to the host home. Walker, happy with his effort and success but even happier with his revelation that there is a girl who loves bacon as much as he does, left with a story he couldn’t wait to tell me.
“Who is ‘this awesome girl’? I’ve got to meet her.”
“Her name is Lizzie.”
I should have known she was special from the beginning.
Earlier this year Lizzie was diagnosed with a rare stage 4 liver cancer- specifically Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma. When I say rare, I mean rare. Only 25 people get this diagnosis each year in the U.S. Lizzie’s took up the entire right lobe of her liver and spread to other parts of her body making her condition grim. We were told the only reason she received treatment was due to her age. An adult would not be considered for treatment because of the gravity of this particular cancer. If we are being honest here, she was not expected to survive. Even more honest, I didn’t expect her to survive.
Since her diagnosis she has endured rounds of chemo and side effects, undergone major surgery and dealt with emotions no 18-year-old should endure.
But she has done so with grace.
Yes, she has cried. She has wrestled with her faith. She has felt like an inspirational fraud. She has struggled with extreme anxiety. She has experienced real fear. She has felt angry. Life with cancer has not been easy, but she faced it with authenticity, humor and positivity.
Without intention, Lizzie has unified the town of Lufkin and beyond. She has united a church. She has strengthened her friends. She’s given hope to the other kids in the hospital. She has made people laugh on her blog. She has spread the gospel.
And I am excited, humbled and grateful to tell you, that with the strongest of intentions, Lizzie BEAT CANCER.
Her newest scans came back clean. Her tiny body is cancer free. A body that months ago was peppered with disease is now white as snow. A body that has served as the first true and only God-explained miracle I (and many others) have witnessed. A body that is headed to the University of Texas in a matter of days. And in that body resides an old, wise soul who has experienced the deepness of God’s grace in a way that many of us would never choose. Grace that has shown up in community, in modern medicine and in peace that surpasses all understanding.
Goodness, I should have known she was special from the beginning.
To all of you who have never met her but have lifted prayers, donated to Relay for Life and constantly asked me how she is doing, THANK YOU, and please continue.