“ Seek out a second, third, or even more opinions. Join a support group, which can guide you during all aspects of your brain tumor journey. Anticipate the not so great days—it does and will get better.
Liz Holzemer is the “mother” of all mAss Kickers. Figuratively and literally. She founded the organization Meningioma Mommas, a non-profit dedicated to providing support for a meningioma population that previously was not strongly addressed in the brain tumor community. Meningioma Mommas only supports meningioma specific research and has raised $90,000 to date. It was one of the major influences in the creation of mass Kickers. Her first book Curveball: When Life Throws You a Brain Tumor, recently received the Colorado Authors’ League 2008 “Harvey” Award for Book Length Nonfiction: Service and Informational. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors as well as the Denver Woman’s Press Club and Colorado Authors’ League. Liz has been profiled on the TODAY Show, Discovery Health Channel and several times on Denver’s NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates. Liz has also been featured in numerous publications including 5280, the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Woman’s World. She is a past recipient of the Woman’s Day Annual “Women Who Inspire Us” award and the 2006 Tim Gullikson Spirit award. Whew! All that and she is the proud mom of two beautiful children. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. We are very honored that she took the time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.
mK: What/ when was your diagnosis?
LH: I was diagnosed with a baseball-size meningioma brain tumor on February 3, 2000.
mK: Who is your hero/heroes/who do you look up to?
LH: My daughter, Hannah and my son, Hunter who are the reason I am here today. I admire people who have the courage of their convictions and the prevailing underdog.
mK: What motivates you?
LH: When I receive letters from total strangers sharing what their recently deceased loved one meant to them. A young husband shouldn’t have to raise his 8-year-old son alone because a so-called benign brain tumor killed his wife.
Rejection because it only forces me to try again until a door opens instead of slamming shut in my face.
mK: When was the first time you felt like yourself?
LH: I am constantly evolving and improving the older version of myself. I like to think of myself as an ongoing work in progress.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
LH: Laugh—Anyone with an offbeat sense of humor. Tightening up the bolts during brain surgery has further enhanced mine. It’s a cliché, but having a sense of humor is a tremendous coping tool. Facing brain surgery— or any devastating illness for that matter—is no easy task, but if you can laugh at yourself, it certainly lightens up the recovery load.
Cry—Airport good byes, middle seats on a plane and Mother’s Day.
Angry—Intolerant, incompetent, hypocritical, narrow-minded people. They’re my biggest pet peeve and I don’t have time for them.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
LH: I usually check out books at the library. I’m all about recycling so indulging in a just released NYT’s bestseller hardcover is a rare and huge pleasure!
mK: Yeah, people don’t go to libraries enough. Why buy something when you can get it for free? It’s the “American” way really! Hahaha! You know they have DVDs there too! What is your favorite movie?
LH: I can’t just name one, but my earliest movie recollection is my dad taking me to see Pinocchio in his turquoise and white ’56 Chevy. I’ve never forgotten Jiminy Cricket singing, “When You Wish upon a Star.” My brain tumor journey has certainly proved that anything is possible.
mK: Why did you start Meningioma Mommas?
LH: To provide what I didn’t have when I was stumbling around during that week long stupor before my surgery. MM is my way of softening the shock for anyone diagnosed with any type of brain tumor and to provide hope and practical advice.
mK: Wow! That is extremely admirable. That is a very large undertaking! What do you like to do in your spare time?
LH: Spare time?! Nap, which I need every day. Dancing with my kids. Writing. Writing. Writing. Photography. Calculating my chances of winning the lottery so I can finance my hammock, which will be my future retirement “residence” on the beach.
mK: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
LH: A perfectly grilled rib eye paired with an Australian Shiraz.
mK: mmmm. That makes our mouths water. Any advice for people that get daunting diagnoses?
LH: Simply put—3 things. Avoid Google. Delegate. Rely on your sense of humor. Laughter takes the edge off.
mK: Tell us something people probably didn’t know… anything
LH: Every night I dream about becoming a stand up comedienne—the next Ellen or Kathy Griffin.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
LH: You have to be your own advocate because no one else will go to bat for you. We have to trust that inner voice each of us possesses. It’s a lesson anyone can grasp and apply to his or her life regardless of the situation.
Seek out a second, third, or even more opinions. Join a support group, which can guide you during all aspects of your brain tumor journey. Anticipate the not so great days—it does and will get better.
Thanks for the interview Liz. Thanks big time for sharing your dream and showing us that when there is something not right, we can make a difference. Checkout Meningioma Mommas to support the patients and their loved ones affected by meningiomas. We’ll have to keep our eye out for the Liz Holzemer Show. Now we’re gonna get that nice juicy rib eye….