In her two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy, Lizzy Olivan lost and gained a lot. Just 10 years old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), Lizzy lost her hair. She lost her energy, and had to drop out of the dance competitions she’d been winning since she was four years old.
Some friends behaved unkindly. (“I just have to let that go,” she says now.) But even more friends stepped up.
To help Lizzy and her family, their community in The Dalles held a fundraiser called a “raise and shave.” “You have to raise a certain amount of money, or shave your head,” Lizzy explains. “They made t-shirts for me that said: stay strong, dance on. A girl from dance class raised the money that she needed to, but she still shaved her hair off. So we could be in it together. I told her: if someone tells you you’re not beautiful right now, please know that you are beautiful no matter what.”
Lizzy will always be grateful for the support. Such camaraderie made all the difference. “I learned to stay strong,” she says. “To always believe in myself.”
During her stays at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Lizzy’s care team helped lift her spirits. “They’re super nice there,” she says.
“I would even rather be at the hospital than be at Disney World because they’re so nice there. They make me feel special.”
Now 14 years old, Lizzy is cancer-free and in good health. A high school freshman, she made the cheerleading varsity competition squad and remains an accomplished dancer, competing in jazz and tap. Her favorite subject in school is math.
“My hope is for more cures for more rare cancers. I really want to go into the medical field,” she says. “I’m working on keeping and maintaining my 3.9 GPA so I can attend a good college. I want to do cancer research for children because I really feel there’s not enough.”