Liz Little is living proof that attitude is everything.
The former very visible face of downtown Lee’s Summit’s Finishings for Her, Liz knows a thing or two about reinventing herself, from both an occupational and a personal perspective.
Liz is in the throes of another battle against endometrial cancer. She’s been down this road before, too. But if not for the stylish head covering she dons these days, to sit with her and talk about her fight wouldn’t reveal someone struggling in the least bit.
In fact, Liz has a few words for those wondering how she’s doing: she’s happy. And, damn it, she’s going to win this fight.
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“I never expected this to be my life. But I’m happy. Who can say they have cancer and are happy?” Liz said, with a huge smile.
Diagnosed six years ago with endometrial cancer at age 29, the co-owner at Finishings for Her began her first rounds of treatment – ultimately fighting off and on for more than three years.
At not even 30, Liz wasn’t remotely ready to be public about her struggles.
“I didn’t want to put it all out there because I didn’t want the sympathy. I would take the empathy, but at 29 years old, possibly not having kids, I was trying to wrap my whole mind around it,” she said.
Fighting off the cancer became Liz’s new normal, especially as she started thinking about having a child of her own. Her doctors told her she needed to be cancer free for six months to carry a child. She made it five.
At 31, she had a hysterectomy to remove the cancerous cells in her uterus.
After the closing of Finishings, Liz’s job transition brought her start Inspired Style Boutique. Albeit without a storefront, she was back to doing what made her happy.
Cancer came back in December 2016, although Liz had been diagnosed with the nodules in her lungs a year before. After word her cancer had returned, Liza was ready to share messages of positivity and hope and to do it in a very public forum – on Facebook.
On March 6 of this year, she released a video telling the world she was about to start her battle. There were no tears. No anger. Just a resolute and unyielding announcement and promise to stay positive along the way.
“I literally came right home from the doctor’s office and made that video,” Liz said. “I wanted to share with my customers and make people aware what was going on in my life. Everyone was going to find out so I wanted to try and help somebody else.”
Six years ago, she didn’t reach out to anybody. This time, she was sharing with everybody.
“I couldn’t pick my phone up for a week after that,” she recalled of the outpouring.
Since that announcement, Liz has continued to share stories of positivity and purpose through her “Motivational Monday” videos, hoping to just reach one more person who may be struggling with something – anything – in life right now.
“It is so true … you never know what people are going through.”
What Liz is going through, she calls her “new normal.” And she’s steps away from beating it, her oncologist tells her, because of her exceptionally positive attitude.
A few weeks ago, Liz was dealt some good news: no cancer in the pelvic or abdomen areas; but in her lungs, a few nodules – leaving three more chemo treatments, the final scheduled for Sept. 7
“I was so excited because I thought I was done, but it’s a mixed emotion,” she said. “At the same time (the chemo) did work, so I can’t be upset. I need to do what’s working to get the rest of it gone.”
Her business will be a year old in October. She will certainly have plenty of time to celebrate. In the meantime, she has – finally – allowed herself to be emotional about it all. Even if not in public.
After what she thought was her last treatment, Liz cried for a week, finally allowing “myself to stop and just feel something.
“I allow myself moments at home,” she said. “My intent is to not make it look easy. I want to show that you don’t have to put a stop in your life.”
All the while, she’s controlled her own destiny, deciding to shave her head before the chemo took her long, blond hair away.
“I bought a wig, but never felt comfortable wearing it,” she shared.
And, in true Liz spirit, she’s kept her sense of humor about all the changes.
“I mean, I have one eyelash on one eye. One!” she said, leaning forward in between laughs and pointing to her face in animated fashion. “Just fall out already.”
She also recalls a conversation she had with her family early on and her message was clear: I will control my destiny.
“My quality of life is my quality of life. I am going to tell you what my quality of life will be and what I am capable of doing.”
Damn right, Liz.
Lee’s Summit resident John Beaudoin writes about city and civic issues, people and personalities around town. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.