Lily Anderson: More Than Just a Sickness

A mother’s way to overcome and live on the legacy of her lost daughter

Cancer patients are not the only ones affected. Yes, they are going through something traumatic and it can take their life, but have you ever thought about its effect on other people? Whether that be their family, best friend, or a person with an empathetic heart, cancer’s effects much more than just the advocate.

The Anderson Family at the annual 5k, Lily’s Run

It was just like any other hospital that they had been in to visit sick grandparents and family members who had gone through surgery. Bland walls with a repulsed feeling of all the poignant things that came with hospitals. It was no big deal though. It was just a small cyst that had been on Lily’s stomach. Lily’s face grew pale as blood was drawn and an annoyed look on her face flashed every time they told her that she would need another x-ray. She was tired of hearing all of the buttons buzz on the machines they were using on her and was tired of the nurses making her take all of these tests. Of-course an eight-year-old girl would be annoyed. Finally, the news came that they were done with all of the tests, but you could see the drooping eyes, concerned look, and choked voice as he asked to speak to Lily’s mom in the hallway. He said it.

“I remember hearing the words at the hospital and I just slid down the wall in tears. It was devastating,” says Jennifer.

Neuroblastoma is a cancer developed in children under the age of six, my daughter cannot have this being only eight-years-old. Maybe eight was better. She had no idea what cancer really meant for her. Radiation, chemotherapy, I.V.s, more medicine, throwing up, and crying out of pain were all scenes that the Anderson parents would see their daughter going through.

Jennifer cried consistently and painfully for months. She couldn’t bare to look at her daughter hooked up to machines all day. Nothing made her feel worse that seeing Lily in the hospital, but no one else but Lily could cheer her up. Lily had a sparkle. Her resilience and positive attitude kept her mother in check.

All of a sudden, this cancer thing began to be like every other day. A casual thing.

“It really doesn’t hurt anymore, the blood tests and everything — I’m just so used to it and I’ll be taking my chemotherapy orally, you know, pills,” Lily explains when she was just 9 years old.

Although everyone looked at her with sorrow-filled eyes, Lily had a sparkle about her. Even under the dull hospital lights, she could brighten up any room she walked in. Whether it be going to chemotherapy, a checkup, or another surgery, Lily never let it get the best of her and ruin the spirit that kept not only Lily thriving, but also her mother. It was so easy to look past Lily’s decaying body and just see her beautiful soul shining through her pale skin.

Little did her family know that not even two years later, she was sent home because it would be more comfortable for her the few last days. Her mother was heartbroken. Thoughts ran through her mind, such as, how will Aubrey (Lily’s younger sister) handle this? How am I going to handle this? Why did God do this to me?

An early, chilly morning on December 15th, 2012, was a day filled with sorrow and pain for everyone, especially Lily’s mother. She lost her daughter to a slow, painful death that overcome Lily’s strong to fragile body. Jennifer couldn’t watch Lily grow up to be a famous singer as she planned. She couldn’t applaud her walking across the stage at graduation. Knowing this pain, her empathetic heart could feel for all the other mothers and other family members watching their child go through hardships, much more cancer. Of course she let out the pain of her broken heart and cried every day for months, she decided that she was much more than just a woman who lost her daughter. She had experience, knowledge, and the ability to help others.

The Lily Anderson Foundation flourished in the passionately loving city of Cumming, Georgia, where everyone was Lily’s biggest fan and prayer-giver. Jennifer did not want the thought and spirit of her lost daughter to be lost, but to flourish in her forever home. Lily’s legacy was flourishing as her mother continued to put her name and spirit everywhere.

Running through the pink and lime green banner as you finish her annual 5k or looking at the hundreds of boxes filled and topped with green and pink bows allowed Lily and the memories of her genuine, happy spirit to run through each person’s mind. All the money from the 5k was donated to families with kids battling cancer, as well as the toys from the toy drive were given to sick children and their siblings spending the holidays in the cold, gloomy hospital. The Anderson Family began to be sponsored by the West Forsyth Girls Lacrosse Team, the neighborhood Vickery Village, and all other establishments around the community that Lily and her family lived in. Jennifer wrote a book titled, Glitter, on the struggles and the life that Lily gave others.

Lily’s name and favorite colors were blasted everyone amongst our community, and you couldn’t dare not to think about her sweet smile and sparkling personality. Instead of dwelling on her lost child, Jennifer took her experience and turned it into a legacy for her daughter and a fight for other families and children who had struggled just like hers did.

Rest in Peace Lily. December 15, 2012.

Lily Anderson singing the National Anthem at a Braves game in 2011