Liz Rowan loses fight with cancer at age 21

As a teen, she made her life with cancer public to help others with disease

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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More on Liz Rowan

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Liz Rowan vowed to fight. And fight, she did.

In the last five years, the 21-year-old Vancouver woman received five cancer diagnoses. She endured dozens of surgeries, countless rounds of chemotherapy, bone grafts, blood transfusions, a bilateral mastectomy, a bone marrow transplant and breast reconstruction.

She defeated bone cancer in her jaw at age 16 and two types of breast cancer at age 19. But the latest battle — in which she faced leukemia, twice — was too much.

Rowan died Thursday from complications related to her cancer treatment.

Rowan was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in April. She immediately began chemotherapy treatments and received a bone marrow transplant in September. On Oct. 31, the family learned Rowan's leukemia had returned. To make matters worse, Rowan had also developed a second form of leukemia.

"This last relapse had been really hard to accept," Rowan wrote on her blog on Nov. 19. "I can throw around the idea fighting it 5 times but six has me scared. There is only so much fight a person can have and it's hard on my family too. I will fight cancer until it kills me literally."

Her blog, Lizstrong.com, has since been removed.

For years, Rowan led her fight against cancer in the public eye.

Since her bone cancer diagnosis, Rowan blogged about her treatments, surgeries, recoveries, emotions and life in general. The Columbian has also chronicled Rowan's fights, with an article in 2008 and two articles earlier this year.

Rowan decided to share her story on behalf of other teens with cancer. When she was first diagnosed as a high school student, teachers and friends inadvertently made her feel like an outcast, like "the cancer kid."

Rowan hoped her story would show people how cancer diagnoses affect teenagers and young adults.

Rowan's funeral service arrangements are pending.

When contacted about this story, Liz Rowan's father, Rod Rowan, said the family had no comment.


Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.