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Oak Leaves

September 28, 2018

heather_schilling_family_cancer_awareness


Dr. Heather Schilling’s family comes together on September 15 to celebrate Community Night in support of MU football, the American Brain Tumor Association and Liz’s Unexpected Journey 5K.

Photo provided


Community Unites to Raise Cancer Awareness


Samantha Bontrager


Manchester alumna, Elizabeth Schilling, daughter of the Director of Teacher Education, Heather Schilling, shared her story of surviving a brain tumor at the home opener football game Sept. 15, 2018. The goal of the evening was to bring the community together and raise money for the American Brain Tumor Association and the annual Liz’s Unexpected Journey 5K.

The event was spearheaded by Heather and Elizabeth in order to get the Manchester community together to celebrate and support one another. “Manchester University has been an important part of my kids’ lives,” Heather wrote. “They grew up surrounded by college students who treated them like they were their own little siblings. Both of them watched the relationships I have developed with students and wanted that for themselves.” So after graduating from Manchester Jr./Sr. High School Liz chose to come to Manchester University and further immerse herself in the Manchester family.

Community night was planned so that the Manchester Community could come together once again to support not only Liz, but everyone living in the United States who are living with or currently battling brain tumors. “The focus wasn’t on money,” Heather wrote. “It was about raising awareness of the organization and the importance of community supporting one another.” With the focus centered around what the community could do to support other people, Elizabeth spoke about her journey and the American Brain Tumor Association. “Community night provided the perfect backdrop for Elizabeth to share her story,” Heather remarked.

Liz’s story is one of bravery and perseverance. Liz is a four-year brain tumor survivor who says that Manchester has helped her realize the importance of relationships throughout her journey. Her story started in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she had just arrived for a semester abroad when she collapsed from a seizure and was rushed to the hospital. Her parents flew to her right away and brought her back to the United States and to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. On Valentine’s Day 2014, Liz had a 10-hour awake craniotomy to remove a Grade II Oligoastrocytoma egg-sized tumor from her left temporal lobe. Since then, she has fought day in and day out to be, as she says, “normal” again.

Liz stressed the impact that Manchester had on her and her family during the whole process and shared that through the relationships she developed at Manchester, she was still able to complete her degree on time with the class of 2015 with a bachelor’s in economics from Denison University. “When Elizabeth experienced her tumor, this community held our entire family close and enabled us to navigate it as well as we have,” Heather expressed with gratitude.

A year and a half after graduation, Liz’s tumor started growing again. At that time, she started countless hours of being, as she phrased it, “pinned to a table” undergoing proton radiation. Several MRI’s and ten months of chemo later, Liz will always have a small inoperable part of her tumor in her brain, but she says she doesn’t want it to be fully gone.

Liz says having a small part of her tumor in her brain makes her who she is.

Six months after her initial surgery, Liz got a sailboat tattoo on her left wrist to follow Denis Waitley’s quote, “Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”

Throughout it all, Liz manages to smile brightly and never, ever gives up.