For the second time, an 11-year-old Redmond girl is planning to sell her hand-drawn and painted cards at the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk on May 6.
The funds Megan Lisk receives will be donated to help find a cure for brain cancer, which took her father Dennis Lisk at the age of 44. Megan was 9 years old at the time.
So far, the Bellevue-based St. Louise School student and her mother Jenny Lisk have donated $3,425 and hopes to add an additional $600 from her sales at the walk.
“Working on Megan’s Cards for Cancer has been great for Megan and for me,” Jenny said. “I love having something tangible to work on with her, and I think it’s great for her to help process her grief in this way. She’s been quite committed to the idea of not wanting to see other families affected by brain cancer the way ours has been; I feel like I’m helping her learn that she can turn this motivation into action and make a real difference in the world.”
It was in May 2015, the Lisks’ lives changed forever.
Jenny recalled one particular Friday night in which she noticed her husband sitting on the couch with a funny look on his face. He said he had felt dizzy the last few days.
Jenny said they talked about a plan to contact his doctor that Monday.
But after Jenny returned from picking up takeout for dinner that night, about 15 minutes after they spoke, she knew something was seriously wrong.
Dennis repeated that he’d felt dizzy for a few days, but said it like he had never discussed it before.
“I said, ‘We just talked about this’,” Jenny recalled. “He said, ‘We did?’”
Jenny began second-guessing herself. Although Dennis called his doctor that Monday, he couldn’t get in for two weeks. During that time, Dennis acted mostly normal but Jenny did start to pick up on little things that were just “off.”
Then, when they were on a family hike for Mother’s Day to Franklin Falls, Dennis had a complete lapse in memory.
As they were hiking, he turned to his wife and asked, “Where are we staying tonight?”
Confused, Jenny asked him where he thought they were because Franklin Falls isn’t far from their Redmond home.
“He said he thought we were in some place in Oregon,” she recalled.
Calm on the outside, Jenny explained they were going home after the hike, that it wasn’t too far from where they lived — only about 30 minutes.
On the inside, however, Jenny was not calm.
“It was too weird, so I called his doctor and they said to bring him in,” Jenny said.
The two went to the Swedish Redmond campus that day, thinking that his faltering memory had something to do with an unrelated medication Dennis had been taking. After all, his symptoms were on the list of “rare” side effects.
But after his MRI, instead of being sent home to wait the 48 hours for results, the two were asked to stay to talk to another doctor.
Jenny remembers the doctor saying something along the lines of, “There’s something really wrong with your brain and I don’t know what it is” to her husband.
Not only that, but the doctor recommended they see a neurosurgeon right away. They were shocked. Before they had time to blink, they were in Swedish neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Cobbs’ office, planning Dennis’s brain surgery for the very next day.
At the time, doctors didn’t know what type of cancer Dennis had and needed a biopsy of the growth. The surgery was also meant to remove the cancer. However once they were in, doctors couldn’t remove much.
“It had kind of spread around everywhere,” Jenny said, adding that she wasn’t aware of one confined part the cancer had been in his brain.
After the surgery, Jenny learned from one of her husband’s specialists that his prognosis wasn’t good – about 13 months.
“I knew in my gut it wasn’t going to be that long,” Jenny said.
On Jan. 8, 2016, Dennis Lisk passed away at 44 years old from glioblastoma, a highly malignant, aggressive form of brain cancer. He had survived for eight months.
As the family grieved the loss of a man who’d loved his family and job at the city of Redmond as a city planner, they tried to focus on the good times — like when he taught Megan how to scramble, poach, fry and omelette eggs. She said her love of cooking comes from that bond.
Then, in December 2016, Megan and Jenny were chatting when Megan proclaimed, “When I grow up, I want to help cure brain cancer.” Surprised, Jenny asked if she wanted to be a doctor but Megan had a different idea.
She would use her art skills to raise money for brain cancer research.
But she didn’t have to wait to be an adult before doing so, Jenny told her daughter.
Megan designed Christmas cards for her school’s upcoming St. Nicholas craft fair that was three weeks away. Before they knew it, they had raised $500 through the card sales.
Megan specifically wanted to take the money to Cobbs, who had operated on her dad, so Jenny got to work to find a tour of Swedish Medical Center in which she knew Cobbs would be a part of. When she presented the envelope full of cash to Cobbs, he was nothing short of surprised.
Mother and daughter continued to find ways to sell their cards. Jenny created a website and they got a booth at the 2017 Seattle Brain Cancer Walk. Since then, they’ve continuously donated money to the Ben and Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment, each time presenting money to Cobbs.
“It makes me feel excited because I know I’m helping out,” Megan said when asked how it feels to give Cobbs a check.
This year, in addition to selling Megan’s cards, family and friends have raised more than $2,500 through their team “D’s Dawgs,” which will participate in the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk.
“My personal goal is to raise $44,000 for brain cancer research, as my husband died at the age of 44,” Jenny said. “I am already at nearly $9,500 between donations I raised for last year’s walk and this year’s walk, and the donations made possible by the card sales!”
Megan said it’s important to donate money “to things you think will make the world a better place.”