Throughout Liz Lord's life, the values learned while playing sports in Newport Beach have been used many times. Now, as she fights in the biggest battle of her life, she clings to those values.
Lord was known for being competitive when she played volleyball for Newport Harbor High before graduating in 2002 with a full-ride scholarship to the University of Portland. Not much has changed. She still wants to win.
When she was diagnosed with brain cancer and was told that the tumor found was inoperable and incurable, Lord didn't back down. She said she would beat the disease.
For people who hear about this and know the 27-year-old, they say, "That's Liz."
"The only thing she was upset about was that she couldn't go back to work," said Meg Lord, Liz's younger sister who is 25.
The doctors leveled with Liz, telling her the average life expectancy for her type of brain cancer is 12-14 months. Reality set in for Liz, but that didn't mean she has stopped fighting. Her speech has slowed and her body has changed, but Liz won't stop battling.
As she deals with the disease in Portland, she's encouraged by the support of her family, co-workers and the Newport Beach-Costa Mesa community.
Liz's friends have set up a Facebook page (Liz Lord Fundraiser I Orange County Chapter) for those who want to help with the medical bills and other costs.
At Friday's Battle of the Bay at Corona del Mar High, more fundraising will take place.
When Liz heard about the boys' volleyball match that pits Back Bay rivals Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar, she was grateful that people were also making it a fundraising event for her. She also expressed excitement for the match.
"Go Newport," she said during a telephone interview Friday.
She spoke briefly on the phone, which was on the speaker setting. With the help of her boyfriend, Casey Sobolewski, she answered questions.
"What do sports mean to you?" she was asked.
"Everything," said Liz, who also played soccer and softball. "Sports kept me out of trouble. It taught me about team spirit and to stay strong as a team. It taught me time management. Perseverance. Those are all things I still use. I love it. It taught me more in life than I could ever imagine."
Liz has been drawing strength from her competitive fire throughout the past three months. She was diagnosed with brain cancer April 1.
"We thought, 'Wow, this is a horrible April Fools joke,'" Meg said.
But at least there was a diagnosis, and that was somehow a positive thought.
For two months, Liz said she had vomited frequently. Maybe it was a gallbladder issue, she thought. She went through tests with no answers, she said. She was given anxiety medication. She tried other methods for hydration and nutrition.
Meg was close by to help her older sister. They struggled to get along in high school, but ever since they finished up at Newport, they've meshed well, Meg said.
Meg was driving when Liz fell into a coma. Meg stayed calm, as she watched her sister experience a bit of delirium before going into the coma for three days.
Later, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Meg wasn't surprised when Liz said she wanted to fight.
"My sister is immensely competitive," Meg said. "She's always upbeat and always has a positive way of thinking. She has not complained once. She's mostly worried about everyone else and how they feel about this. She's so surprised by the amount of support received. But to me it's not a surprise. Her attitude is not a surprise. She's a huge fighter and she's really focused on beating this."
Liz is an account marketing manager for CIP Marketing. Liz said she is grateful for the support from her co-workers and everyone at the company. All of the support helps when she is dealing with the cancer.
Her diet has changed dramatically. She also must take on bouts of chemotherapy.
Her boyfriend and sister remain close by to help. Liz's father, Geoffrey, and mother, Maryann, live in Newport Beach, but have been visiting. Maryann is planning to rent a place nearby, Meg said.
They all want to help Liz and encourage her to maintain that fighting spirit she showed so much during her time at Newport Harbor. She was a part of the 1999 Newport Harbor team that won a state championship. Liz was also named a first-team All-Sea View League player in 2001 before going on to Portland.
"She was an undersized middle who just worked so hard that she got a scholarship to Portland," said Newport Harbor volleyball coach Dan Glenn. "She's very athletic. She's always been a competitive girl and such a fighter. Hopefully those are things that will help her now."
Glenn was diagnosed with iris melanoma, a rare form of cancer in his right eye, about two years ago. He knows the power of positive thinking and the strength that can come from support.
"I've had some good talks with our teams," Glenn said. "And I told them that we are all family. Liz has a lot of people praying for her and rooting for her."
Charlie Brande, who coached Liz in club volleyball, is one of many supporting her. Brande recently wrote about Liz and the fundraising efforts for her in the Daily Pilot. He said he struggled with the words to write. The news has been difficult to deal with for many who know Liz, but they are trying to remain positive for her.
Taylor Govaars, who played with Liz at Newport and is now an assistant coach for the boys' and girls' teams, said she was stunned when she found out about her friend and former teammate. Govaars knew she had to help. Other former teammates, including Katie King, have also pitched in with support and fundraising ideas.
Tony Melum, a former Newport Harbor basketball player, has offered his T-shirt company to help. His shirts that read, "Don't Worry, Be Happy," will be sold at Friday's match, and there's a link to buy shirts online at the Facebook page.
Govaars and Glenn wore the shirts for their match on Friday. They'll continue to support her.
"She's such a fighter," Govaars said. "If anyone can fight this it's her."