Meet our newest Earth Angel, Liz Luque. Liz’s story just blows my mind and serves as a reminder that the mind, and faith alone are both SO powerful. Liz and I were introduced through a mutual friend and we had an instant connection…it was if we had known each other for a lifetime. The Universe is always supporting us, I truly believe that. I had been feeling down and doubting my circumstances and God placed her in my life right on time, as a reminder that miracles are all around us. Hearing her testimony was the push I needed to get my mind back on track and to restore my faith. Liz to me, is the epitome of strength. There really is no other way to describe her. She is strong beyond measure, not to mention beautiful inside and out! May her story inspire you as it inspires me daily. The following is Liz’s story in her words:
“I was diagnosed with ALL T-Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Lymphoma at the age of 17, it was a double diagnosis all at once. I remember it like it was yesterday; the year was 2004, I had just graduated from high school and was beginning my first semester of college at Cal State University of Northridge. I was so happy to be living in the dorm rooms. It all came as such a shock to me because I didn’t feel like I was sick. I was so hard on myself and even though I felt some fatigue and tiredness (and my back and leg were hurting), I used to get mad at myself and think I was slacking off and wonder what was wrong with me. I did go to the campus doctor a few times, and they said I was depressed and low on iron, but I knew I wasn’t. They gave me iron pills and sent me on my way. I felt like my life could not have been more perfect in my eyes at this time. I was modeling, and making good money off of something that was fun to me. I was young and beautiful, I had just graduated high school with high honors, I was smart, I had scholarships and financial aid, and was ahead of my classmates because I went into college having taken loads of AP classes in high school. I moved out and was at the dorms having fun in college, feeling like I was on top of the world. My leg would hurt so much though, to the point that I had to assist my leg in order to get out of the car, but in my mind I was ok.
November 23rd, 2004, I woke up excited for my first test in college. I was trying to stay up late studying the night before but I had a fever and my roommate forced me to take a Tylenol and go to sleep. I woke up feeling great! I made breakfast and packed all of my school supplies in my backpack and ran out for class. We stayed on the second floor of the dorm, so I ran down the steps eager to get to class and when I reached the bottom, I fainted. The pain was unbearable, I couldn’t move, it hurt to breathe, and my back gave out completely. My roommate came down after me and was trying to help me up but I could not stand. She tried taking me to the on-campus doctor but they said that if I was not able to walk then I should go to Northridge Hospital, so I did. There they did numerous tests on me but didn’t know what was wrong with me. They kept me in the hospital and I felt like I was deteriorating. Finally they did a bone marrow biopsy and said the results came out blurry. It was such a painful procedure, but they did it twice and said they knew I had cancer!? I was there for almost two weeks, and then I was transferred to UCLA.
When I got to UCLA they did a bone marrow biopsy immediately and followed up with x-rays, and in less than an hour they knew exactly what was wrong with me. My oncologist came into the room where my mother and sister were with me and said, “I have some bad news..you have two of the most severe types of cancers” (Lymphoma and Leukemia). I asked her how advanced it was as I didn’t know that Leukemia is cancer of the blood, and that it was all over my body, so there was no staging. She also informed me that the Lymphoma had deteriorated my hip and leg bone to the point that my bone was as thin as paper and that I was paralyzed. I was in total disbelief, but it did not take long to realize that this was my reality. I was stuck in a hospital taking chemotherapy 24hrs a day and radiation every other day to help my hip and leg bone grow back. In a couple of weeks, my hair started falling out and then a nurse brought me clippers and advised me to cut it all off. I had my sister shave my head.
I wasn’t scared initially. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but once my hair was all the way gone, I did not like to look at myself in the mirror because I felt like I looked sick. I would treat my cancer as a cold; I did not allow people to cry in my room because I knew that I was going to beat it. Despite all that was happening, I was so optimistic about everything and I don’t know where I got this careless yet positive attitude from. Looking back now, the fact that I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to beat it, is amazing. I would ask a lot of questions about the types of chemos that I was taking and I would meditate and tell my body to use the medicine the way it was supposed to. I did not know exactly what I was doing, but I remember learning that we do not use our brain enough, so I decided to focus all of my energy on helping my body heal. I was so faithful, I would pray and wait on my miracle.
I never cried, I hardly complained, I just could not wait for this nightmare to be over with. Actually, I can’t say I never cried, I actually broke down and cried when I found out that my grandmother had passed while I was in the hospital. I actually went into a coma when I found out. She lived to be 90 years old. She loved me and could not bare with the pain of me being sick, she had a stroke and passed shortly after and I felt guilty for her death. But as always, I took a negative and used it to fuel me to keep going. She was and is my guardian angel and I could not let her leave in vain. I know she was with me through my fight and knowing that I had someone with me helping me heal at all times was everything. My angel, my grandma, helped me get my miracle…she was close to God and advocating in my name.
I was in the hospital for a total of one year and four months. After my first cycle of chemo things were not looking too bright for me, and I will never forget my oncologist giving me no hope. She told me how chemo kills your red, white and cancerous cells and they had to let me rest before they started another cycle or else the chemo could kill me, not the cancer because I was so weak and that treatment wasn’t working. She also told me experimental chemos were available to try but that I would have to “sign off” to proceed. I was quick to sign even though my mom and sister were scared and didn’t want me to. I forced my mom to sign for me because I was still under age. I was not scared, I did not want to hear negative or see negative. It’s beyond me how negative people, including doctors are…I took it all as a challenge and I wanted to prove her wrong.
I remember asking, ” Ok so the chemo is not going well, but what about the radiation? And when am I going to be able to walk again?” She said, “Honey, at this point we do not know if you will live.”
I replied, “Ok, well lets talk numbers (lol I thought I could figure out a solution). What is the percent of me living after I do this next chemotherapy cycle?” She said 20 percent.
Then I asked, “What about me walking and being normal again?… Being able to have fun and be the same person I used to be?”
She could not get a word out, her eyes got watery and she just put one finger up. That meant 1%! I cannot believe that did not discourage me. Today memories like this are my motivation. After my second cycle of chemo, the holidays were approaching again and my oncologist asked me if I wanted to stay in the hospital or go home. I immediately said go home, but my mom was scared and thought I was too weak. She didn’t want me to catch an infection at home and die. I clarified for my mom and explained to her that they were essentially asking me if I wanted to die in the hospital or at home…I chose home. My oncologist said there wasn’t much more they could do and that my body was too weak to go through another cycle of chemotherapy.
When I went home, I did my bucket list. I wanted to live, be happy till the end. I went to Six Flags, church, the beach…I even went to Tijuana Mexico. I was eating everything and going everywhere. I was not worried about germs or what the doctors would say. I told all of my family and friends that if they had a special tea or oil, to bring it to me, or if they wanted to come pray over me to bring it on! I’m was open to anything.
I then had to return to the hospital after three weeks for some testing, but the end was not near. They did a bone marrow biopsy to see where I stood and tested everyone close to me to see if they were a match. I was sitting in a room with my sister, waiting for the results, when about 12 doctors walked in with clipboards. My oncologist said “Liz, please go over everything you did while you were away from the hospital.” I was embarrassed to share as I didn’t follow what she told me. I did not stay away from germs, I did not eat healthy, I did not rest. I said, “I don’tt think you want to know.” She insisted I share, so I started talking. “I ate a snickers as soon as I left the hospital and then we went straight to King Taco. I had pupusas for dinner…..” The doctors looked at each other puzzled like should we even write all this down? My oncologist told me that I could stop. What do you think was special that you did? Something you would consider out of the ordinary? I replied “I was just living. She said, The reason why we are asking you is because you are 100% cancer free. My sister and I started screaming and jumping and laughing…I was so happy! God granted me my miracle; my little guardian angel aka my grandma and I did it!!
Not only did I survive and walk again, but last year I ran the Nike Women’s San Francisco Half Marathon that benefitted both Leukemia and Lymphoma, both of the cancers that I survived. I feel so blessed…I went from being paralyzed to running for a cause that I went through. Now I want to share my survival story and tell others to believe in themselves to keep going no matter how bad the situation looks. Do not listen to what the doctors say, have faith that you will get through it. Love yourself enough to fight for your life. No one else can do it for you, no one else knows your strength, so just push yourself and keep going. The last thing you want to do is give up on yourself.”
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I told you this girl is a miracle! Through faith ALL things are possible. In addition to just being plain awesome, Liz is also a swimsuit designer based out of Los Angeles. Her love of fashion and personal triumph also fueled her to create Fancy Caps. She produces caps out of swimwear materials and visits hospitals everywhere for both children and adults and gives out the caps as a reminder to the patients to keep swimming. Together Liz and I created a Go Fund Me page to raise money for Fancy Caps for the Holidays, to enable us to visit patients and pass out the caps while offering some inspiration. Please click here to learn more about her cause and please please make a donation if you are in a position to. No donation is too small and all proceeds will go directly to the production of the caps. Thank you XOXO #LoveHeals #FaithOverFear
Questions for our Earth Angel
1. What is love?
Liz: Love is everywhere…In my family or friends, in nature, in music. Love is such a hard word to describe because it’s a feeling that just comes and can’t be controlled. When you love someone or somebody, you just do, not because of what they are, but because of how they make you feel.
2. Who or what inspires you?
Liz: My grandmother inspires me. I always remember all of her wise words and I want her to look down upon me from heaven and be proud. I lost her while battling cancer. She didn’t make it but I did, and I feel like she’s my little guardian angel. I will not let her down. My family also inspires me because I want to make them proud as well. I inspire myself daily. I am very hard on myself, I set big dreams, that equal high goals for me, which makes me work really hard everyday to achieve them!
3. What is your favorite quote, verse or saying?
Liz: “The genius thing that we did was, we didn’t give up.” – JayZ
4. What is your favorite song?
Liz: I have so many. I love music… one of my ultimate favorite songs that I never get tired of hearing is by Kanye West, Can’t tell me nothing. It gets me hyped and working harder. I like to play it when I workout too.
5. What is your favorite pass time or hobby that is most healing to you?
Liz: Designing and creating. I love to get lost in fashion and fabrics.
6. Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
Liz: As the top swimwear designer. I hope that through my passion for fashion I can prove that dreams do come true. I hope that I can be a role model and example for those going through cancer. Before I was diagnosed, I was modeling and during the cancer treatment, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to walk again. But I didn’t give up my dream of being around fashion and clothing. Instead of modeling, I decided to create the garments. I went back to school and learned business and techniques with textiles for manufacturing fashion garments. I have utilized everything that I learned in life and now I can’t wait for the fruit of my hard work to bloom. I hope that my struggle and journey can inspire others to never give up on their dreams or goals!
7. What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to another individual experiencing a health challenge?
Liz: Stay strong… mind, body and soul. Be positive no matter what the doctors say. Fight hard and believe in yourself. Have faith that this too will pass!