Lee's Summit Journal

Two bouts with cancer couldn’t break this persistent entrepreneur’s body, spirit

After several surgeries and nine months of chemotherapy, Liz Little opened KC Collective Boutique in downtown Lee’s Summit. It provides a brick-and-mortar outlet for her already successful online fashion and accessory business, Inspired Styles Boutique.
After several surgeries and nine months of chemotherapy, Liz Little opened KC Collective Boutique in downtown Lee’s Summit. It provides a brick-and-mortar outlet for her already successful online fashion and accessory business, Inspired Styles Boutique. Special to the Journal

Liz Little launched an online fashion-accessory business, Inspired Styles Boutique, in October 2016.

After 15 years guiding and defining styles for the women of Lee’s Summit at Finishings for Her, it was Little’s first step toward bringing her entrepreneurial dreams into reality.

But six weeks after launching her now successful web-based business, Little, 35, was diagnosed with cancer — for the second time.

During this past year, Liz has endured three surgeries followed by nine months of chemotherapy, which ended in September.

Little was first diagnosed with and treated for endometrial cancer at age 29.

After more than two years of treatment, including surgery and oral chemotherapy, doctors told Liz she was clear of cancer and was unlikely to have issues going forward.

Then, she learned last December that, not only had the cancer returned, but it had metastasized to her lungs.

“I was in shock; I was frightened,” she said. “I have to provide for myself and I wondered how I was going to juggle launching a new online business and face the trials that come along with cancer.”

Turns out, Little had little to fear with regard to the trials that accompanied her cancer recurrence. Not only has she continued to grow her business, but she transformed her challenging journey into one of inspiration for others with her strength, courage, and positivity.

“When Finishings for Her closed, my long-term customers told me they still wanted to shop with me,” Little said. “They said they didn’t want to leave me and inspired me to pursue my dreams. I didn’t know last October, when I started Inspired Styles Boutique, how much I would actually be inspiring people with my story.”

During her previous bout with cancer, Little maintained her privacy and didn’t publicly share the experience. The second time was different.

After the 2016 diagnosis, Little decided to take her new fight public and immediately started posting about her journey on her business page and social media.

“I started posting Motivational Mondays and, throughout my treatment, I posted positive things,” she said. “I didn’t make it just cancer-related. The videos and posts are about helping people and recognizing that everybody has struggles in life. Now, a lot of people look forward to Motivational Mondays.”

As if the past year wasn’t challenging and full enough, Little also decided she would open a storefront shop, KC Collective Boutique, to complement her online business.

KC Collective Boutique, which is located at 205 S.E. Green St., is a multi-space venue where owners of online fashion and accessory boutiques can establish a permanent physical location. Liz also offers opportunities for vendors to host pop-up shops.

During an intense year, Little not only searched for and found a location for the shop in downtown Lee’s Summit, but she also worked through the many details required to bring the brick-and-mortar business into reality.

She hosted a grand opening Friday for her latest venture, but that doesn’t erase the struggles Little faced during the year-long trek to that celebration.

After her third chemo treatment this year, chemo fog set in.

“I couldn’t put my words together,” said Little,who continues to take suppressive medication to ward off future metastization. “It took me two hours to write a two-sentence post for social media. I have struggled a lot, but I push through it. The cancer has taken so much from me; I’m not going to let it take anything else.”

Her cancer treatments took a toll to the point friends sometimes didn’t recognize her and strangers called her derogatory names in public about her appearance.

“I have cried,” Little said. “It took me forever to post a picture of me bald. I won’t be able to carry my own children, and that has hit me hard, but I’m here and that is what I am thankful for. Still, you have to allow yourself those sad times. You know tomorrow will be a better day but, for the moment, you are sad. But you just can’t stay there and focus on it.”

Little continued, “Living with this, honestly, I have learned to take everything day by day. I live in the moment. It’s always going to be there in the back of my mind, but I push it as far away as possible, so can I live my life happily.”

She considers herself a high-energy person and said the illness and treatments have also worn her down physically.

Now, Little sees her strength returning each day, even as her oncologist occasionally reminds her to slow down.

It’s just hard for Little to put on the brakes.

“I’m ready to get things going,” she laughed — something Little does often and from the heart.

Where does her strength, as a cancer survivor and entrepreneur, come from?

“Someone told me that I have a fire within that will not give up,” she said, “and my customers, my boyfriend, family, and friends have inspired me more than they will ever know. There are so many new opportunities. You never know what can happen, but there’s hope for the future and I go with that.”