Who we are

Who we are

Lishy’s Gift is a non profit 501(c)3 charitable organization that serves young adult cancer patients in the Roanoke Valley. Lishy’s Gift seeks to raise the quality of life when life is at its worst.

We strive to make daily life in the hospital more bearable with comfort items that improve the everyday experience for those whose life has been greatly altered by a cancer diagnosis.

Lishy’s Gift is funded through fundraising events and charitable donations.

Elisha Guillard, the daughter of Pete and Andrea Guillard of Roanoke, Va., was a 22-year-old with a lively spirit.  In December 2017, following a simple eye exam, she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia called Biphenotypic Acute Leukemia.  With this type, both myeloid and lymphoid cells are affected.  All her ambitions and dreams were put on hold as she focused on beating her illness. During her short stay in the hospital, “Lishy” told us she wanted to help other young cancer patients after beating it herself. But in her case, cancer won, and she never got the chance to help others.

Lishy passed away on February 6, 2018, just 39 days after her diagnosis.

To honor her and keep her desire to help other young adult cancer patients alive, we started Lishy’s Gift.

Its goal is to help make life a bit easier for those who suffer, as she did, here in the Roanoke Valley.  With Lishy’s Gift, we want to raise the quality of life when life is at its worst.

Those who knew Elisha knew she didn’t take the diagnosis of cancer calmly at first. Cancer interrupted her life as it has interrupted so many others lives this year. And yet, her doctor used words like courage, grace, and determination to describe Elisha.

Over 39 days, she began to accept and process her diagnosis. She learned about and tried to understand what had invaded her body.  She controlled what she could and accepted what she couldn’t.  Elisha at 22 mourned the loss of what was and began to prepare for what was to come. She began to allow herself to live in the space she was given.

Amidst her own suffering she was determined to help others like herself. Some days were easier, some were very hard, yet still, she was thinking of her fellow patients, and others she would never know.

Lishy’s spirit is in all we do. Every time we deliver a comfort bag, some part of Lishy lives on.

When you hear the word cancer you never fully understand the enormous impact that cancer has on you and those affected by it, or until you have a child who has it. Your world stops. You deny yourself the luxury of accepting reality. You go into fix-it mode, focusing only on what’s next.  You call out to God like never before. You put on the armor; you call all your villagers and plunge headlong into uncharted territory, and then become numb to the world outside.

Before, you thought you had all the time in the world. You don’t.

Christmas 2017 came with expectations of what the New Year would bring. Four days later my 22-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer — an extremely rare form of leukemia which only 4-8% of leukemia patients in the world have had:  Biphenotypic Acute Leukemia. In simple terminology, she had markers for two blood cancers, myeloid and lymphoid. Statistically the prognosis was not good.

She had started having severe headaches and bruising months prior. Yet the shock of the diagnosis was unfathomable. That Friday morning when she called me and said “I can’t see and my head hurts worse” — we had no idea of what was about to be laid out before us — we called the eye doctor. He said to her later that day,  “Go home and pack a bag, and head to the ER.” She was hemorrhaging behind her left eye and starting to in her right.

Test results showed that her white blood cell count was high. Her body was, and had been, fighting a battle unbeknownst to her for some time. She knew, but could not make anyone understand. By 2:30 she was in transition waiting for a room to be admitted, and waiting for a bone marrow biopsy, alongside the love of her life. What she once knew as normal was about to change.

Elisha began to fight for her life. She fought hard. She tried to be the light and positivity for the rest of us, all while this horrific thing called cancer raged through her body. Lish went through two chemo regimens of heavy doses of drugs, bone marrow biopsies, lumbar puncture, blood patch, platelets plasma, blood transfusions, spinal fluid leakage. She lost her beautiful curly mane of hair, yet totally rocked her beautiful bald head. We all took a front row seat watching this child of ours and child of God’s offer a powerful witness of strength and courage as she entered a short journey of self-discovery and reaffirmation of faith, a journey that lasted only 39 days. Her free spirit and tenacity looked at this thing called cancer head on and she fought it her way!

She was determined to fight. We saw God at work, alongside her doctor and nurses. Our village of friends and family prayed and helped in what ever way they could. She struggled daily to maintain some sort resemblance of normality and balance in an unbalanced world of cancer.

Elisha journaled, detailing her struggle along the path being laid before her.  Until you walk your own journey alongside someone walking theirs, you don’t understand when someone says cancer.

She was a daughter, a friend, a confidante, a girlfriend, a sister, granddaughter, niece. She was a listener, an encourager. She was Elisha Rae. When she had a chance to dance she danced, she lived. She did it her way. It was her cancer and only she knew how to fight. In her room were tiny little fairy lights, cards and lots of beloved turtles, and her own light shown to all who entered. She was our gift on loan from God. She was His all along. We grieve because we loved her, we all have memories to hold close to laugh and cry about, but most of all there is no more pain for our Lish. She is now safe and secure forever.

Cancer had victory over her human body; God had victory over Elisha Rae. We love you forever.

Pete Guillard – President and co-founder: He is the Director of Youth Ministries and Adult Christian Education at the First Evangelical Presbyterian Church. It was his daughter – Elisha Guillard – who struggled with and died from leukemia. From that struggle came an awareness of “comfort needs” to aid in raising the quality of life for young adult cancer patients. Email:pguillard@fepcroanoke.org

Andrea Guillard – co-founder: – Director of Fundraising: Mother to Elisha, Master hair stylist.  Email: AndreaGuillard5@gmail.com

Cathy Hartman – treasurer. She is currently the Senior Vice President and Senior Credit Officer for Home Trust Bank. She also sings in the chancel choir at FEPC and serves on the church’s Administration Commission. Email:Cathy.Hartman@hometrustbanking.com

 

Jill Davis – secretary. She is a former Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). While she was employed, she worked with pediatric oncology patients and their families for 10 years. She helped decrease the psychosocial stresses of hospitalization and provided coping strategies to aid during treatment and recovery. Email: jhdavis579@gmail.com

Juanita Prada – Lishy’s Gift’s Young Adult Representative board member, I am a two-time childhood cancer survivor, an aspiring Child Life Specialist, and founder of BeholdBeGold (beholdbegold.org), an advocacy movement raising awareness of the long-term effects pediatric cancer survivors face after treatment is completed. Email: juanitaprada17@gmail.com