Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer

Beacon Correspondent

Taylor Lyon is a full-time student at Humboldt State University who, in addition to juggling her studies and living independently, is battling a rare parotid gland cancer at the age of 20. In response, the community has come together to help Lyon keep that focus and determination by holding a Zombie Prom at the Fortuna River Lodge on Friday from 8 p.m. to midnight. Tickets will not be sold at the door, but can be purchased at Glamorous, Sport & Cycle, and Redwood Capital Bank in Fortuna. Ferndale has tickets at Farmer's Daughter and Eureka residents can find theirs at Sport & Cycle, Redwood Capital Bank, and Pierson's.

There will be music and entertainment by Lightning Boom Productions, appetizers by the Perfect Palate, a raffle, no host bar, costume contest and much more to keep you zombies excited and entertained.

There will be a selection of silent auction items including a HealthSPORT two-month Gold Membership and a 30-day HSP FIT Personal Training Experience valued at $500, Eel River Brewery certificate for two menu items and beverages not alcohol, $100 Gift Card for Pierson's, $50 Gift Certificate for Humboldt Healthy Foods, 6 qt. Oil Change and four car washes from Shelton's Auto Lube, C.Crane donated a Senta Ally Bluetooth Stereo Speaker with FM $70 value, Heart & Soul massage therapist Pamella Garvin two massage certificates, Schatzi's Hidden Treasures $200 product donation, Redwood Empire Golf & Country Club round of golf for four ($150 value), noise canceling headphones from Valley Lumber in Ferndale $65 value, two oil change certificates from Mid-City Motor World, necklace and earring set from Natural Selection value $79, and more.

If you have trouble finding a ticket, you can contact Patti De La O at 726-9090. Tickets are $25 for a single and $40 for couples. Attendees are encouraged to come in their best zombie attire, prom it up, or come casual.

Lyon's mother, Angela Gibson Barban, reflected on the upcoming event.

”When our good friends, Patti and Marcus De La O, came up with and organized this Zombie Prom Fundraiser I was touched that so many people in our community were making such an effort to help my daughter,” she said. “This outpour of love is by far the best medicine!”

Lyon said she was very pleased with the support of the community.

”Originally we planned on doing a color run fundraiser, but as the year was coming to a close, we decided that a color run wouldn't be too fun in the cold!” she said. “We figured something indoors would be better, something exciting, preferably a dance. Then we came up with the theme of zombies since they seem to be popular these days. I expect 'Walking Dead' fans to be there!”

Before attending HSU, Lyon was a student at Ambrosini School and Toddy Thomas Middle School in Fortuna, where she began cheerleading in fifth grade for the Eel River Valley. She then went on to cheer for Toddy Thomas and Fortuna and Ferndale high schools.

“I broke both of my arms in a cheerleading accident,” Lyon said, “and the pain of that was nothing compared to the eye surgery pain I had during my major surgery for my cancer.”

Lyon is now done with just over 6 weeks of treatments she endured every Monday through Friday. She travels down to Stanford every six months and San Francisco every four months. Taylor will continue to have scans to check for new cancer in Stanford and plastic surgeons in San Francisco to monitor how the healing process is going.

”Taylor's doctors at Stanford and in S.F. have been incredible,” Barban said. “Not only are they the best in their fields, they took the time to make a genuine heartfelt connection with her and our family. The hardest part about this situation is that there isn't an end. Every little symptom needs to be reported, PET/MRI scans have to be done on a regular basis, and it's never-ending.”

In October, Lyon's scan came back clear and although very exciting and encouraging it does not erase the fears. 

”My biggest fear is the cancer coming back,” Lyon said. “My oncologist told me that with the specific type that I have it tends to come back in 10-30 years or so, but in my lungs. I asked her how it would travel there and she said most likely through my bloodstream,” said Taylor.

Lyon is still suffering from facial paralysis due to her surgery to remove the cancer where they took the sural nerve from her left leg and put it into the right side of her face. Movement has slowly started to return.

”In November of this year, if my face hasn't improved much, we will plan to do a cosmetic surgery where they will most likely take my right facial nerve and attach it to my left facial nerve in hopes for even more movement,” Lyon said. “The thing with nerves is that they take a very long time to heal and regenerate. Even if we have to do a cosmetic surgery in November, I will still be looking at a long road of recovery as far as facial movement goes.”

Lyon was expecting to lose her taste buds completely but only lost about 25 percent. Additionally she lost some hair over the treatment area which has started to grow back. Mouth sores were a big concern due to radiation treatments, but Taylor used a teaspoon of honey 15 minutes before treatment and 15 minutes after and did not suffer from them.

Lyon is no longer working and has put all her focus in to her studies. She hopes to one day travel the world and plans to graduate from HSU in three semesters.

”To me, you can either think of cancer/disease as your life is ending, or it's just beginning,” Lyon said. “Cancer has opened my eyes to what I want to do with my future. It has already taught me so much. Not only about good health, but about myself, and what it means to live. When I used to hear the word cancer I would immediately pair it with the word death, and I think that goes for a majority of people, especially if they don't know anyone who has won the battle. Today, I think of the word 'survive.' “

If you would like to help support Lyon during this process, you can attend the Zombie Prom, donate to the Taylor Lyon Medical Fund at Redwood Capital Bank, 1075 South Fortuna Blvd., Suite A, or simply donate books to read during treatment or gas cards for travel expenses.