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Lizs Legacy - A Husbands Tribute

A Husband's Tribute

The following are the remarks that Liz's husband, former Nebraska Senator David Karnes made on August 14, 2003 when Liz's Legacy was launched.

Posted: Thu, Jan 1, 2009

"Liz was an extraordinary person who reflected everyday of her life the values and qualities that she inherited and learned as the result of being a part of two great families - the Lueders and the Karnes.

Liz was uniquely talented in so many ways. Whether in Omaha, with family and friends or in Washington with Presidents, First Ladies, cabinet secretaries, business leaders or celebrities - she was a star. Her positive impact on people whether young or old, rich or poor, of whatever race or gender was obvious.

It was not only her enjoyment of people and life, but first and foremost, her unconditional love for me and our four wonderful daughters, who inspired her to never, never give up her will to live another day.

Thus, on March 13, 1990 when doctors at another Omaha hospital removed a grapefruit sized ovarian tumor and the pathologists determined that she had had little chance to survive, Liz's courage and love of life and family were truly revealed.

Because of the severity of her disease these doctors asked for gynecological oncologists from UNMC to take over her case. She proceeded with several types of chemotherapy, then the tumor returned. She was given less than a 2% chance to live. We conferred with radiologists and determined a very aggressive radiation program should be undertaken. She was amazing in her faith, courage and spirit during these treatments, continually communicating with other women similarly undergoing radiation therapy, her sense of hope, concern and support for them.

Like many without serious illness in one's family we knew little of the capabilities and medical expertise of UNMC. However as Liz's case unfolded we continually found the doctors and nurses at the Med Center to be the real source of our hope and confidence.

Liz and I, as many of your know, spent a number of years in Washington. Liz became very close to Barbara Bush being one of her key staff. Following Mrs. Bush hearing of Liz's illness she called and said they would see to it that any cancer center in the country, M.D. Anderson in Texas, Sloan-Kettering in NY, UCLA in California and the National Cancer Institute and Hospital in Washington would be available to Liz. After much thought and input we determined UNMC and its cancer specialists were our best choice.

Miraculously, Feb. 14, 1993 we were advised by the Med Center doctors that Liz's ovarian tumors had disappeared and she was in remission.

We knew that the aggressive radiation treatments likely would cause serious side affects - and two years later they did when blockages in her intestines developed. For the following four years numerous truly remarkable surgical procedures were necessary to keep her failing, radiation scarred organs from stopping. All these surgeries were done at the Medical Center.

Great strength, continuing faith and courage by Liz, wonderful support from very caring, talented nurses both here and at our home allowed her to survive.

Liz's aggressive treatments, we know , would place her statistically in a group where different types of recurring cancers were likely.

After several cancer free and wonderful years together, cancer was found again in her kidney in January of 2002 and tragically medical options were largely limited and it fatally spread.

Liz's goal when initially diagnosed with the Ovarian tumor was to continue to be the mother and inspiration to our four daughters and give each of them, in her position as a member of the District 66 School Board, their high school diploma's.

As we all know, she accomplished the goal when in May of 2002 she presented Laural our youngest her diploma. She even continued for many months thereafter in another role she relished as one of America's best soccer moms to Kara at Washington University in St. Louis and Laurel at Yale University.

Liz during her nearly constant Medical care these past years at the Med Center was committed to keeping in Omaha and attracting to UNMC great physicians. She was inspired to help make UNMC the best it could be. During this time she spent several months at the Nutritional Research Center at the Harvard Medical School addressing numerous nutritional issues caused by her intestinal problems. There was only one such facility in the country so Liz decided their needed to be two and convinced both UNMC and the Harvard Medical Center to open its first expansion program at UNMC. Today it is in its third year of operation.

When a very talented surgeon at UNMC who had performed extraordinarily complicated bladder surgery successfully on Liz, was considering leaving, Liz with the help of the Med Center leadership formed group of some of Omaha's most powerful corporate leaders to create a fund of several millions of dollars to develop a Med Center endowment for prostrate cancer research and surgical practice.

Not surprisingly, although Liz was clearly not a candidate for prostate cancer, the ten male corporate leaders asked her to serve of the endowment committee board.

Thus, Liz and I have learned to appreciate and recognize the importance to our family, our state and our region to support and enhance the unique mission and wonderful healthcare capabilities of the UNMC Eppley Cancer Center and the Nebraska Medical Center.

Our goal today and one of Liz's Legacy's she would be most proud would be to have her tragic fight with cancer to never happen to another human being. This can only occur with improved cancer awareness, preventative action, outstanding treatments and enhanced research. This is what our family, including Liz, hopes for with this new program.

On Aug. 14th - 33 years ago today Liz and I were married. Our wedding anniversaries were always so special because we had so much to be thankful for and we cared for each other so much. Liz always gathered our family together on this day to celebrate life and our love.

Therefore, I can think of no greater gift today to honor her memory, her spirit and her legacy than to establish the Liz's Legacy program to help find better treatments and hopefully a cure which will provide, to all that have cancer the wonderful gifts of hope and life."

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