The Columns

A Legacy of Love: Liza Haynie Heaton '11

— by on October 30th, 2015

About a year ago, W&L posted the heartwarming story “Love for Liza” on its homepage. It generated an enormous number of hits, and for good reason.

Liza Haynie Heaton ’11, who had been battling synovial sarcoma for a number of years, had become a bit of a celebrity after marrying Wyatt Heaton ’09 in December 2014, days after learning that she had less than a month to live. That story made headlines all over the country, including the “Today” showCNN and Fox News.

What gave the story extra appeal was the emotional support of the W&L community, which rallied around Liza on her important day. In the short term, her health improved, and she started chemotherapy treatments.

In November 2014, Liza’s sister, Ann Marie Haynie ’13, and several of Liza’s friends had launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for research into Liza’s disease. As Liza said in an interview with the Shreveport Times, “People will forget about me in 15 minutes, but this money will go on helping people with the disease for a long time.”

In 15 days and with the help of almost 3,000 people, the fund raised $466,342. It hit $560,000 by the end of February.

Unfortunately, Liza won’t be able to benefit from any medical breakthroughs funded by new research. She died on Oct. 17, having exceeded doctors’ expectations by 10 months.

Her close childhood friend, Allie Kittrell, said in her eulogy at Liza’s service: “Liza, it is so hard to imagine you not in my future. I don’t think you will ever know how much you changed my life. Just look at this entire church with all the people you made an impact on.”

Liza’s legacy, though, will have an important impact on others fighting the disease. Through the support of the Love for Liza Fund, Johns Hopkins was able to hire a postdoctoral fellow to focus specifically on Liza’s rare type of sarcoma. The team has already made considerable strides in their research, and Liza has singlehandedly helped change the course of synovial sarcoma treatments.

Read Liza’s obituary in the Shreveport Times >