This post is written by Jeff Spencer and Pam Laird, two of Lizann’s beloveds (that she wrote about here). We write this primarily because it feels as if Lizann’s website is incomplete without it. You who have followed her blogs and writings deserve to know what has happened. You who stumble upon this site would have an incomplete picture without it. (This post was updated on June 25, 2020, and again on May 30, 2021, moving it from the front page of this website to this blog post.)
Lizann died on May 27, 2018. As she wrote here, when her cancer was diagnosed in August 2017, it was already Stage IV, having metastasized from the primary tumor in her cheek into lymph nodes in her neck and into her lungs. Squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck are often very aggressive cancers and being Stage IV made Lizann eligible to join a phase 2 clinical trial of an immunotherapy. Lizann embraced the opportunity to participate in a study that would potentially help her own immune system identify and remove cancerous cells from her body.
Lizann’s embrace of this treatment was not just about her own health. She saw the lineage of past and future generations with these types of cancers. She knew that future generations will only benefit from these emerging treatments if people like her are willing to be a part of the trials. Also, Lizann’s family has a history of head and neck cancers (she wrote about this here). For example, her great-grandmother Josie Smith, whom Lizann was researching, died of a head and neck cancer. We (Lizann and the two of us) hoped that this treatment would change the family story about head and neck cancers. We hoped that Lizann would not just tell Josie’s story in her planned book, What’s Remembered, Lives, but that she might embody a new ending to that story. That is not what happened.
The medical crisis Lizann experienced at the end of April, 2018, turned out to be a side effect of the immunotherapy and, because it was life-threatening, it made her ineligible to continue in the immunotherapy trial. Once it became clear to Lizann that she was not able to receive more immunotherapy and that other treatment options would neither offer her significant improvement in her quality of life nor offer her significant additional time, Lizann decided she was done.
Her pain was being managed thanks to methadone and morphine. Lizann detached her feeding tube. No more nutrition. No more water. She was ready for the next adventure. And on May 27, 2018, that adventure began.
Pam, who has been the custodian of most of Lizann’s writings and research, has turned over the draft of her book, What's Remembered, Lives, to Lizann's mother, Sandy. Sandy is working with that writing, adding and prologue and an epilogue, so that it can be published. Pam has Lizann's other writings and we are considering how it might be shared; if you would like to help with that effort, please contact Pam via the Contact Page on this website. Jeff is managing this website so Lizann’s work that is available through it will remain accessible. It may also be expanded (or we may add blog posts here and/or on her “What’s Remembered, Lives” blog) with more of Lizann’s writing, if we determine this is the best way to share what she’s written. Lizann’s Facebook page has been “memorialized” so her posts there remain available. In these ways, we hope Lizann’s work will continue to enlighten and encourage, and that she will be remembered with love. After all, what’s remembered lives.