A 25-year-old woman given less than a month to live surprised more than 100 family and friends who flocked to Louisiana to be with her Saturday, by turning the gathering into a wedding.
Liza Heaton went to the emergency room on Thanksgiving after experiencing stomach pains. Scans showed that after three years in remission, her cancer, synovial sarcoma, had returned and was more aggressive than before, 11 Alive reported.
Synovial sarcoma is a rare cancer that most often occurs near the knee but can also affect other joints. It can spread to other areas of the body, especially the lymph nodes, according to Boston Children’s Hospital. It most commonly affects adolescents and young adults.
Liza’s oncologist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital determined a gastrointestinal obstruction would prevent treatment, and recommended hospice and palliative care, according to 11 Alive. Liza and her then-boyfriend Wyatt, who had just returned from living in London, began talking about possibly getting married.
As news of the prognosis traveled to family and friends, Wyatt and Liza, who was only spending 30 minutes a day out of bed, began scheming.
“When they said it would not be months, but weeks, I took that to mean a wedding was off the table,” Liza told 11 Alive. “Wyatt took it to mean, ‘OK, we have to get married this weekend.’”
More than 100 family and friends gathered for what they thought was a lakeside fish fry to spend time with Liza.
“We had 150 people. Tons came in from out of town – from all areas of my life,” Liza told the news station. “From summer camps, college, friends from Atlanta, Baltimore. It was amazing. That’s how I wanted to spend my time.”
Guests who were expecting a somber evening were shocked to learn that they were actually at the couple’s wedding. Liza partied with her guests for around eight hours despite hardly being able to get out of bed in the days leading up to the ceremony.
“I kept thinking, she needs to be on her fluids, but her dad said, ‘No. She’s having the time of her life,’” Wyatt told the news station.
The day after the wedding, the obstruction that was preventing Liza’s treatment cleared, and her oncologist said she could begin taking a chemotherapy pill to halt the progression of the tumors.
“The hope is that the pill will stop the tumors, and in the spring she can join a trial and treat the cancer,” said Michelle Haynie, Liza’s mother.
“Last week, we were thinking hospice. Only a few weeks left. Then, with this chemo pill, we weren’t given a time frame. We’re hopeful to beat it again and go into remission and spend the rest of our lives together,” Liza told the news station.
The family is hosting a fundraiser through Johns Hopkins to raise money for further researcher into Liza’s cancer. The “Love for Liza Fund” has received more than $300,000.
“Maybe it will turn around, and if it doesn’t, enjoy what you have. Enjoy the time you have left,” said Liza.