When Life Gave Liz Some Lemons

Liz Barker

Liz Barker is a seasoned financial advisor from Philadelphia, who is blessed to be with the three loves of her life: James, her husband of 30 years, and two sons, James and Bryan.

Up until the age of 29, Liz had what she described as an uneventful life. She was married, had a career, a nice home, and was pregnant with her first child, a girl named Lauren.

“But the day my daughter was born, April 16, 1986—from that day forward, life changed,” she says.

Lauren was born with Down syndrome and a severe heart defect that required immediate surgery after she was born. Liz was thrown into a whirlwind of emotions and preoccupations. Baby Lauren survived the surgery, and lived a healthy three more years, up until complications arose from her second surgery. She passed away a couple months after Liz’s second child, James, was born.

“I suffered melancholy for over a year,” she says.

It took her a long time to work through the grief, but a year after Lauren’s passing, at age 34, Liz was pregnant with her third child and looking forward to meeting him.

Liz Barker


Another Turn In the Road

One evening, as she was getting ready for a party, Liz noticed her new bra was bothering her. When she returned home, she found a lump in her breast.

At first, she didn’t think it would be serious because she was young, and she had no family history of breast cancer. She went to the gynecologist who then referred her for an ultrasound. They then recommended that the lump be removed.

“We went to the doctor’s office a few days later to discuss the biopsy results, and he dropped the ‘C-bomb’ on me,” she says.

Liz was worried about the health of her unborn baby, so with the help of a physician family friend, she met with experts who have, in the past, treated pregnant women with breast cancer.

Not long after her diagnosis, she underwent a mastectomy when she was 5 ½ months pregnant, and began chemotherapy when she was in her third trimester.

At the end of her third trimester, she gave birth to a happy and healthy baby boy named Bryan.

“He just celebrated his 22nd birthday,” she says proudly. “He’s an honor student at UPenn, and a varsity athlete. I thank God every day for him and for the friend who helped us save Bryan’s life.”

Though there were plenty of lemons life had served her, Liz is standing today, a 21-year survivor of breast cancer, and healthy as ever.

“I feel really fortunate to be alive at 55,” she says. “Awful things happen to good people, and you just need to keep your head up and keep going.”

You can read more about Liz’s journey on her blog.