In 2016, Olivia Stoy was a typical 12-year-old—healthy and active, involved in many different activities like basketball and softball. But when she developed a stubborn cold that just didn’t go away, her parents became concerned. Olivia eventually landed at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where doctors discovered that she was dealing with something much more serious: t-lymphoblastic lymphoma, a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

When she heard the word cancer, her world shattered, but only for a moment. “When we found out, we had this initial shock and this moment of being sad. But we didn’t want to have a pity party. We had trust in God and His plan, and we knew we just had to stay positive and work through it,” Stoy said. 

Olivia’s parents, her siblings, her extended family, and her home community in Steuben County, Indiana, quickly rallied around her as she navigated doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy, and other treatments. She remained positive through the chemo treatments, the subsequent complications, and the required isolation to ensure that she would be as healthy as possible and could hopefully enter remission. And in February 2017, Olivia’s team of physicians declared her cancer-free.

Unfortunately, just a year later, Olivia’s cancer returned. Her relapse required additional treatment, including a bone marrow transplant. While her younger brother was found to be a match, the insurance plan that she was on at the time did not cover bone marrow transplants. Despite an appeal to the insurance board, coverage was once again denied, leaving the Stoy family to fund the $350,000 procedure out of pocket—all before the procedure could take place.

Once again, the Stoy family and their community rose to the occasion. Olivia began selling bracelets, and her church community and hometown businesses also began to raise money to ensure Olivia could have the best chance of beating cancer. That’s when the Liv It Up fundraising campaign was born. Olivia wanted the campaign to bring awareness to childhood cancer and how it can affect families. In less than two months, Olivia had raised the funds needed for the transplant—and had enough left over to help other families affected by childhood cancer.

During this time, Olivia was also selected as a Make-A-Wish recipient. Her original wish—a trip to Hawaii—was set to occur in 2020; however, in the midst of COVID-19, she chose another wish. “I didn’t see this as a consolation prize; I had always talked with my parents about wanting to write a book to help me look back on my cancer journey. But, when COVID-19 happened, plans changed, and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to write my book,” Stoy said.

Rick Farrant, a Make-A-Wish board member and volunteer who is an award-winning journalist with an extensive marketing and communications background, stepped in to assist. Farrant spent countless hours with Olivia, her family, and her friends to help her capture multiple perspectives and memories from her journey, and he assisted with organizing everything into Olivia’s book Liv: A Memoir.

“Honestly, I am so grateful for Rick. I did not realize how difficult it would be to talk about some of the experiences, but it was really therapeutic for me and my family to talk about everything that had happened and go deeper,” Stoy said. “I knew how I had remembered everything, but I had not heard all of the different viewpoints, so it was really powerful to hear what it was like for my family and friends.” 

With Rick’s help, Olivia made it through the writing and publishing process. “I went into it knowing that it would be a longer project; we started in 2021, but I didn’t really have a set end date for it,” she said. “The process after finishing the book took a little longer than I would have guessed, but I am so excited to have it finally ready and done.”

Looking back on her book Liv, Stoy is most excited about having her journey potentially help others going through something similar. “There were difficult things, and there are a lot of personal things in the book that made me a little nervous to share, but if it helps one person, then it’s even more than what I wanted it to be,” she said.

The culmination of the whole process of writing and publishing LIV: A Memoir is a special author-signing event on Butler University’s campus on December 6 at 6:00 PM in the Clowes Memorial Hall Marquee Room. Community members will be able to purchase the book and meet Olivia. This event celebrates Olivia’s journey as a childhood cancer survivor, Make-A-Wish recipient, Butler student, and now, a published author.

Thankfully, Olivia’s bone marrow transplant was successful, and now she is living cancer-free. A Lilly Scholar and an active student, Olivia’s next steps include living for the moment, enjoying her time at Butler, and making memories with her friends. A current sophomore, Olivia is majoring in Psychology with a minor in Organizational Communication and hopes to be a grief counselor for children and young adults. “I think therapy has really helped me so much, and I’m hoping to help other children and their families navigate difficult times,” she shared.

Olivia’s story is more than a narrative of overcoming cancer; it’s a testament to the power of community, the impact of philanthropy, and the strength of the human spirit. As she continues her academic and philanthropic pursuits, Olivia remains a beacon of hope and inspiration, demonstrating how adversity can be transformed into a force for positive change.