In July 2020, my beautiful mother, Lisa Walker, was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer.
This took my family by surprise as my lineage has no signs of cancer in any form. We never determined the stage of the cancer as she wanted to be able to remain positive through this time, and she knew if she had a number associated with it, she would get down on herself. This alone shows strength.
At the time of her diagnosis, I was about to start my senior year of high school. To be honest, I was scared she wouldn’t make it to my graduation. I was involved in multiple activities in high school, including competitive dance both at school and my dance studio, and colorguard.
Throughout my last year, she never failed to miss anything. Whether it was a competition, an event (like our end-of-year showcase), banquet, recital, or anything I asked her to come to.
As I came to the University of Missouri, I struggled with the fact that I was far away from home and her, especially. My mom is one of my best friends and I wish I could have been there as she went through this hard time. Although, she always told me to never worry about her and continue with my dreams of going to college.
My first year went well, and going home as much as I could was an important thing to me. As my sophomore year started, she started to get worse. I struggled again to go back and tried to stay in contact with her everyday and went back home every weekend I could.
I went home for my birthday weekend, knowing that she was possibly going to pass soon.
She struggled with daily tasks, but undoubtedly, she was the strongest person I have ever met in my entire life. She took challenges with a smile, was endlessly positive, and always cared for her kids no matter what.
I was with her almost every day I was home, in and out of the hospital, and helping her with whatever she needed. The day after my 20th birthday, on November 8th, 2022, after two long years of fighting cancer, she passed away in the presence of my family at a local hospital. Ever since that day, I feel as though her strength moved to me. While I miss my mom more than anyone can know, I am grateful I have such an amazing person as my angel looking out for me.
My mother was involved in various philanthropic endeavors, though her favorite was St. Jude. She was on the fundraising team for 12 years for the Washington, Illinois to Peoria, Illinois Run.
My mom never failed to show her passion for St. Jude and wanted to be involved even when she was going through chemotherapy. I think her dedication to helping St. Jude has flowed through me as I also started to help with whatever I could to help her. I loved doing it because it made me happy.
Seeing her be in her element is indescribable. She thrived in positions where she could help people, where she knew she was doing good for the community around her. I loved being able to learn through her about being philanthropic and always finding a way to lend a helping hand. I want to say a huge thank you to the various women that helped my mom through this time that were involved with St.Jude with her. Including: Erinn, Jenny, Heather, Becky, Meg, Keli, Amanda, and so much more. You guys are the backbone of my mom remaining as positive as she did.
One of my best friends, Katie Curran, nominated my mom for a Pretty Package in the fall of 2022. My mom unfortunately passed before the package was made and delivered, but Katie still delivered the package to me. I can’t describe the strength that it gave me. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It gave me power and perseverance.
My favorite part of the box has to be the pink boxing gloves. I put them up in my room at school and looked at them when I felt sad, worn out, or when I was grieving the loss of my mother. They made me realize I can fight through hard times. I have used all the items in the package, and let me tell you, that Thrive Causemetics skincare is amazing! It made me feel fantastic and beautiful.
I joined Fighting Pretty because I wanted to give back to the women that are fighting cancer.
Cancer is such an unforgiving disease that strips so many feminine things away from the person who has it, and I know that Fighting Pretty helps bring back those things for a lot of women. The hardest thing my mom went through was losing her hair. She felt that she lost a part of her identity and seeing her go through that was extremely difficult. Eventually, she took it with pride and felt more beautiful than ever. My mom gave me such a strong base for having a philanthropic heart and it grew more and more when I got to college and after she passed.
Fighting Pretty is such a beautiful organization and I am grateful that the University of Missouri has this organization on campus. I have only been in Fighting Pretty for a semester, but I want to continue honoring my mom by being more involved with Fighting Pretty and continue to raise as much money as I can for the women that need strength. I cannot wait for more opportunities to help! I am very grateful for Fighting Pretty and how much it helps the women in the Columbia community and nationwide.
I will leave you with something my mom always used to say: Keep Reaching. Reach for your dreams and do not let anyone tell you that you are unable to do something. Reach to be your best self, even on days you feel you cannot do much. Reach to be a positive influence in other people's lives. You don’t know who you can help.
Thank you for reading through this story of myself and my mom. I miss my mom endlessly.
If you have someone going through a hard time such as cancer, hug them tight and tell them you love them. Remind them that they are strong, beautiful, and fierce and that they can take on any challenge that gets thrown their way. I am wishing and praying for fast recovery and healing journeys for anyone that needs it.