Shoppers at w.port, a women's boutique in Atlanta, are used to finding beautiful things in the store. This past holiday season, they discovered an item with a beautiful story behind it as well. Up for sale via silent auction was a necklace created in honor of Hollis Livezey Youngner and "her courageous and ongoing battle with breast cancer," said a sign accompanying the piece. And proceeds from the sale of the necklace, donated by high school student (and Livezey family friend) Madison Patton, would support breast cancer research at Mayo Clinic, where Hollis is receiving treatment for stage IV breast cancer.
"Hollis has been in my prayers every night," says Madison, who had been looking for a way to give back through her jewelry-making business. Madison tells us it made her "feel so good" knowing she was "contributing to such an important cause." The gesture made Hollis feel good, too. "My first thought was, 'I hope my daughter grows up to be so thoughtful and caring,'" says Hollis, mother to 5-year-old Hayes. And when Hollis saw the necklace at the store — which happens to be owned by her sister-in-law, Emily — she fell in love with the piece. Emily let that fact slip to her father-in-law, Pete Livezey, who went into full Santa mode. "I think my cute, cute dad must have sat outside the store" to ensure he was the winning bidder, Hollis says with a laugh.
His strategy worked. And at Christmas, after seemingly every present had been opened, Pete presented Hollis with one final gift. "To Holliboo, just because I love you," read the card. When she saw the necklace, Hollis tells us she was "in complete shock." (Not to mention tears.) "It was the best surprise," she says. The necklace is one of many gifts Hollis says she's received from her family since being diagnosed with cancer. "I'm so blessed by my whole family," she says. "They drop everything to be with me. They have not let me go to a single appointment alone."
And there have been many appointments, says Hollis. She was initially treated in Atlanta, but three years after her original diagnosis, her cancer returned, and "things got more complicated." That's when Hollis came to Mayo Clinic's Florida campus.
"I was worried about Mayo being so big," she tells us. "I was worried about feeling like number." Instead, she found caregivers "who genuinely care about me. They remember specific things from conversations. They ask about my daughter." One of her nurses, Leilia Brown, wrote Hollis' name on her leg during a surfing competition to let her know she was thinking of her. Hollis says gestures like those — "little things they do that they probably don't think much of" —mean the world to her. "Everyone has gone above and beyond to take care of me and my family."
You can learn more about Hollis' Mayo Clinic story in this video. (Have a tissue handy.) And you can watch for Team Hollis at 26.2 With Donna, the marathon to finish breast cancer. Hollis' husband, Josh, will be running the half marathon with friends. Then, you can leave a comment below before you use the social media tools to share this story with others.