Just three days after her one-year anniversary of being cancer-free, 14-year-old Lizzy Lawton told her mom that she had been experiencing headaches for months.
The Fort Collins, Colorado, teen has been battling stage four Ewing’s Sarcoma – a rare form of bone cancer – since 2010. When doctors found a tumor in her hip, she was given a seven percent chance to live. Then they found another tumor in her shoulder.
After 10 rounds of chemo, she appeared to be cancer-free – and she stayed that way for a year – until she made a big confession to her mom.
“Her head had been hurting her for a while, but she didn t want to tell us because she didn t want to hurt anybody,” Lizzy’s mom Meredith tells PEOPLE. “They did scans and it was there – a tumor in her skull and soft tissue pressing in on her brain.”
Lizzy is now undergoing her third round of cancer treatment, which includes 12 rounds of chemotherapy. After five years of fighting the disease, Lizzy takes her battle day by day.
“She cares much more about her hair, makeup and outfits than she does about cancer,” Meredith, 44, says. “She’s a 14-year-old girl, after all.”
When Meredith saw that the family’s favorite band, U2, would be playing in Denver, she thought it would make the perfect night out for everyone. But at $300 per ticket, the mom of three knew getting the whole family to the show was going to be difficult.
When Meredith made what she calls a “smart-aleck” joke about the cost of the tickets to her spin class, one of her students took note.
Tricia Canonico, a mother of three, quietly launched a CrowdRise fundraiser to give the Lawtons the night out they deserved.
“I’ve only been in her class a few times, but I knew that her daughter has been sick for a while,” Tricia, 46, tells PEOPLE. “I heard her say, ‘We want to go to a U2 concert, and we can’t swing it.’ In the car ride home, I said to my friend, ‘We’re going to make it happen.’ ”
Thanks to the enthusiastic support from her community, Tricia raised almost $4,700 – enough to buy concert tickets for the entire family, a limo ride from Fort Collins to Denver and, of course, makeovers for Lizzy and her two sisters.
“They just needed one night of really good memories together as a family, and I just wanted to give it to them,” Tricia says.
When CrowdRise co-founder Edward Norton heard the family’s story, he decided to take things a step further. The actor called his friend Bono and concert promoters Live Nation to upgrade the family’s seats, get them backstage passes and introduce them to the band.
The experience was beyond anything Lizzy and her family could have ever imagined.
“When we got into the limo, there were gift bags, and one of them had an iPod in it for Lizzy,” Meredith says. “She was over the moon about the iPod – then we found out we got to go backstage!”
Before meeting U2, the Lawton family was ushered backstage, where they spent time chatting with Peyton Manning in the VIP room. Bono was the next to arrive.
“Bono kneeled down and kissed Lizzy’s hand,” Meredith tells PEOPLE. “I don t really know if you can call a rock star a sweetie pie, but that’s what he was.”
U2 guitarist The Edge also stopped by and shared his own family’s experiences with cancer.
“A lot of people just walk by because they don t know what to say and they’re uncomfortable with dealing,” says Meredith. “These guys weren t uncomfortable. In the back room, they weren t even celebrities, they were just sweet, kind human beings being sweet and kind to other human beings.”
While Meredith is quick to call the concert “the best night ever,” what the experience can teach her daughters means even more to her.
“The thing I hope will last for my kids are those bigger lessons – the goodness of people, the selflessness that people can have and how good magnifies good.”