Lilly is midway through twelfth grade. Being a senior is typically the highlight of one’s high school career but Lilly’s year got off to a delayed start because she missed September while recovering from surgery to remove several NET tumors.
The search for an accurate diagnosis
After not feeling well for the first half of 2018 and having countless doctor appointments for inconclusive tests and scans, seventeen-year-old Lilly was diagnosed with a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (pNET) in July.
Her mom, Lynn Pearce, credits Lilly’s primary care physician for ordering an MRI that located neuroendocrine tumors in several lymph nodes and her liver. The surgery took place at Michigan Medical Center, part of the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Getting back into the swing of senior year
Focusing her energies on recovering from surgery, Lilly returned to school in October and resumed her busy, daily schedule as a cast member of the upcoming school play, Outsiders, a member of the Harry Potter Alliance and Student Council. Lilly, a National Honor Society student, is enrolled in a program for accelerated high schoolers.
Deciding to make a difference for others
Confused as to why her doctors could not figure out what was wrong with her, Lilly also took the opportunity to raise funds for NET research specifically supporting research that would identify improved diagnostic tools. “It’s important to me that there is more information available about this cancer to anyone who may have it. I’d really like my fundraising to go toward finding better tests to identify a NET,” shared Lilly during a recent phone call.
In order to raise money for NET research, Lilly decided to sell zebra stickers at school. In researching her design online, Lilly came up with a unique alternative —a zebra donning a pink mohawk mane— to represent the rareness of her disease. In tribute to the design, Lilly also colored her hair pink.
Lilly’s friends joined in the fundraising effort of selling zebra stickers, spreading the word about Lilly’s cancer and the need for more research. The girls’ volleyball team honored Lilly at its cancer awareness game, held a bake sale, and raised nearly $1,000 for NET research.
Classmates purchased stickers for their entire class. In lieu of teachers’ gifts during the holidays, the elementary school suggested students give a donation to their favorite charity. Many students supported Lilly’s Go Fund Me page and the word spread through the larger community. Even Lilly’s sibling, Liv, gave a gift and posted, “I donated because Lilly is my sister and although she can be annoying sometimes, I love her.”
Today, Lilly receives her monthly shots to prevent the growth of any possible cancer cells that may remain in her system and has regular scans to check how she is doing. Keeping her eyes on her future, Lilly will attend the University of Michigan this fall. In college, she plans to continue to see the same nurse she has been working with and receive the high quality of knowledge and care since her diagnosis. She is excited about her future and may even keep her hair pink as a reminder that she had a different cancer … a NET cancer.