She wanted her daughter to have a chance to live and see the world like she had, regardless of what happened to her.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 15, 2020. It has since been updated.
Lily lost her mother a few weeks after she was born but she'll still get to know how wonderful she was. Liz Joice, her brave mother, sacrificed her life to save Lily and made a tough choice only a mother can make.
Liz was approached by documentary filmmaker Christopher Henze in 2014 since he was making a documentary on pregnancy called 40 weeks and wanted her to be a part of it. Her pregnancy was a miracle after her chemotherapy had made her infertile. She had been diagnosed with sarcoma, a form of cancer, in 2010. The day she was diagnosed, her then-boyfriend, Max Joice, proposed to her with a ring fashioned from aluminum foil, according to Today. The couple married a month later.
She had to undergo multiple rounds of chemotherapy before and after the tumor was surgically removed. She was told she was cancer-free in 2011. She was also told that it was near impossible to get pregnant since the chemotherapy-induced early menopause. So, when the couple actually got pregnant, they were overjoyed. However, the happiness was short-lived. She discovered a lump in the same place as the previous time: her spine.
"I think we both kind of knew right then, but we convinced ourselves that it was something else," Max told Today. It was confirmed to be cancer. "It was like the world’s cruelest joke," he told NYPost.
Instead of being concerned about herself, she refused a full-body MRI scan to locate all the tumors because that might lead to terminating the pregnancy. "There’s never going to be anything in my life that I’m going to do that is more amazing than this," she said in the documentary. To her husband, she said, "If we terminate the pregnancy and it turns out I can’t have a baby [later], I’ll be devastated." And, he couldn't change her mind on it.
"She knew this might be her only chance," said her husband.
She underwent surgery to remove the tumor but it reappeared in her 33rd week of pregnancy, which is when an emergency C-section had to be performed. Little Lily was born 4 lbs, 3 oz on January 23, 2015, and was in the NICU for three days before going home. Meanwhile, her mother's condition went downhill. The cancer had spread everywhere.
At one point, Max shuttled between caring for his daughter in their apartment and his wife in the hospital, where she had to stay for three weeks before going home. He called it the "oddest time" of his life. Eventually, Liz said she didn't want to die at home and was taken to the hospital. Six days later, she died there, on March 9, 2015. She had barely got to spend any time with hr Lily.
The brave mother who sacrificed her life lives on thanks to the videos taken by the filmmaker, which have been turned into educational videos for Lily. He made a video for the child with footage of her mother mixed with other kids' TV shows including Yo Gabba Gabba!, Curious George, and Barney & Friends.
"So she knows what her mother looks like, knows what her mother sounds like. Our plan is to keep crafting pieces to allow Lily more and more access as she’s mature enough to handle the story of mom," the director told NYPost.
There is one special video, which was a message recorded by her especially for Lily, asking her little girl to not feel any guilt over her death. "Regardless of whatever happens to me, going through this to bring you here is always going to be worth it, no question," the mom is heard saying in the film. I don’t want that to be hard on you. I just want you to know how important you are . . . and try to be like me and not have anger. You know you can be sad at things and you can be disappointed in things, but you’ve got to let anger go. It’s just one of the least productive emotions a person can ever have. It ruins you and nobody else but you. Some people’s stories just don’t make any sense. That’s why I stopped trying to figure it out. You know, it is what it is, you just have to make the best out of it," she said.
Representational Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Tasmin Brown