NEW YORK, April 1, 2014 ( – A New York woman made the ultimate sacrifice last month when, discovering that she was both pregnant and that her cancer had returned, refused abortion and cancer treatment to give her unborn daughter a chance to live.

Elizabeth Joice, who her husband Max describes as a “tenacious fighter and the personification of strength and grace,” died of cancer on March 9. However, the child she and Max longed for, though not due until March, was born by C-section in January so that Liz could begin cancer treatment as soon as possible.

Liz had been diagnosed in 2010 with an aggressive and rare form of cancer after an MRI showed that what doctors thought was a herniated disc was actually a tumor.


She underwent chemotherapy, a surgery and then more chemotherapy, and was ultimately declared cancer-free.

Doctors told her that the odds of conceiving a child were extremely slim – but having already overcome so much, the young couple refused to be dissuaded. And last summer, to the delight and amazement of friends and family, they announced they were pregnant.

Then came the devastating news that Liz's cancer had returned, confronting the couple with a heart-rending choice. She could abort the child and begin cancer treatment immediately, continue the pregnancy and undergo cancer treatment (which would endanger the life of their unborn child but possibly save Liz's life), or forgo treatment so the baby could grow safely but put Liz’s life in danger.

Liz chose the last option.

“Having a kid was one of the most important things in the world to her,” Max told the NY Post

“She said, ‘If we terminate the pregnancy and it turns out I can’t have a baby [later], I’ll be devastated.' She knew this might be her only chance.”

By late January, the situation became very dire. The cancer was spreading rapidly, and Liz’s doctors advised that treatment could not wait any longer.

On January 23, Liz gave birth to a healthy baby girl who they named Lily Anne.

According to a website put up by friends and family seeking donations for Lily Anne and her father Max, Liz's cancer continued to spread despite treatment. The site describes Liz's efforts to overcome her illness, and her passing:

With Lily now delivered and healthy, Liz and Max – and their friends and families – did their best to live a surreal duality: enjoy and celebrate Lily’s arrival into the world, while confronting the reality that Liz was now incredibly sick. For the next six weeks, she fought. With so much to live for, she fought harder than her doctors had ever seen someone fight…overcoming the odds to spend just one more day with Lily and Max. And another. Then another.

But the struggle could only last for so long. Liz had given it all she had, but could not fight anymore. On the morning of March 9th, with her loving husband by her side, Liz passed away.

“We said our goodbyes,” Max told the Post. “It was like something out of a movie. We sat there and cried. We tried to tell stories, talk about all the great things.”

“Liz’s magic rubbed off on Lily,” Max added. “She’s beautiful and remarkable. It provides me with the strength to get through this.”

The fundraising website organized for Max & Lily, with a photo slideshow of the Joice family before Liz's passing, is available here.