It’s said the bond between sisters is unbreakable. That holds true for the Sullivan sisters who are three years apart, have strikingly different yet beautiful personalities and, most importantly, share a deep love for one another. In the last several months, however, Saville, 20, and Lilia, 17, have embarked upon an unexpected and challenging journey–but they face it together.
In 2016, Saville and Lilia were both diagnosed with brain cancer within three weeks of one another. As incomprehensible as it is, it also puzzles the medical community. Their tumors are different types, in different locations of their brains and appear to have no genetic link. These truly unbelievable circumstances triggered Saville and Lilia’s fighting spirits as they have faced challenges and triumphs side-by-side. Need an inspiration for courage? Look no further than Saville and Lilia Sullivan’s story of strength, hope and love.
Lilia is a typical 17 year old…almost. She is driven scholastically, athletically and socially. From leading her tennis team to the state championship to serving as quarterback during a high school powder puff football game, she thrives on competition. Equally as adventurous as she is competitive, Lilia returned in August of 2016 from a community service trip to South Africa followed by weeks working at Camp High Harbour. Her parents noticed she was tired, but who wouldn’t be with such an active summer? When she awakened them one night with nausea complaints, Lilia began to suffer from a full-blown seizure. It was then that her journey began with a diagnosis of a brain tumor identified as astrocytoma. Initially deemed inoperable, the talented team at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite knew the risk was one worth taking. In the last 10 months, Lilia has undergone a successful brain surgery, radiation treatments and currently takes oral chemotherapy. Would you believe this girl was on homecoming court, captain of the tennis team and headed back to Camp High Harbour this summer? She and her family coined the term, “You’ve got this.” And that she does.
As Saville was visiting her sister at Scottish Rite, she mentioned having a lingering headache. If you know Saville, you know that even if she were in pain, others would still be the focus. Her loving personality is evident at the University of Alabama where, in September of 2016, she was stepping into her sophomore year, a member of Kappa Delta sorority and leading a vibrant social and academic life. Just weeks after Lilia’s surgery, a tumor in Saville’s cerebellum was discovered to be the root of her increasingly painful headache. The level of devastation that the family and all connected to the girls felt is impossible to put into words–but prayer and support for the family spread like wildfire. Like her sister with the competitive spirit, Saville has a deeply courageous spirit. Now nine months following her diagnosis, Saville was treated by the same medical team that treated Lilia and has undergone a successful surgery, proton therapy radiation and completed six months of chemotherapy at Scottish Rite’s Aflac Cancer Center in June. This August, Saville will return to Tuscaloosa to pick up where she left off…but with a new major. She will start studying to be Child Life Specialist, inspired by the those that impacted her and Lilia during some of the hardest days of their lives. The University of Alabama’s tagline is “Where Legends are Made.” Saville, you are a legend and an inspiration to everyone you meet.
As it did for the Sullivan family, life can change quickly and unexpectedly. Their courage through adversity inspired Atlanta-based nonprofit Polo in the Pines to name Saville and Lilia as its 2017 honorees. Polo in the Pines, a two-day charity event full of polo matches, food, beverages and philanthropy, will donate all proceeds to brain tumor research at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Save the date for October 7-8. Join Polo in the Pines at the Atlanta Polo Club to fight against brain cancers in honor of Saville and Lilia. Lifestyle Publications is proud to be the media sponsor for this super-charged event. For tickets and more information, visit PoloinThePines.com.