One woman sets out to make a difference before her death

MILWAUKEE -- One woman set out to make a huge difference before her time was up -- and doctors didn't give her much time. In the end, she accomplished that goal and a lot more.

We first told you about Lisa Marie Calderone Stewart in February 2010. At that time, Lisa was on a mission. She needed to replace herself and time was running out -- or so she thought.

"Well, they said six months. And they said it at the end of October. So you figure if you have six months left, the last two months can't be great. So I figured I had four good months, November, December, January, February," said Lisa.

Lisa's quest was to find a new leader for a program she pioneered called "Tomorrow's Present." It's based on her three-year doctoral research. The program uses five aspects of successful leadership and trains urban high school students to become leaders. They, in turn, use their skills to teach middle school students non-violent conflict resolution.

Just as the program was getting going, Lisa found out she was dying. She first spoke to FOX6 News back then to shine a light on the program and raise money to hire a new director.

"People are paying attention to Tomorrow's Present because I'm dying. Not this many people paid attention before," said Lisa. "How ironic that my death might bring new life to the program. If that's what it takes that's a pretty good reason to die."

The "seed" money was raised, the new executive director was hired, handpicked by Lisa, and one full year after doctors said she would be dead, Lisa was still there.

It looked like things were coming to an end back in June 2010. Lisa left Milwaukee and entered a hospice facility in New Jersey near her family. She was presented the prestigious National Catholic Youth Ministry Award at the facility because she wasn't expected to live long enough for the official ceremony.

While many people were dying around her, Lisa was still standing. Finally, a doctor told her she didn't belong in hospice yet. So in November 2010, she moved back to Milwaukee.

Despite having an aggressive form of cancer that was already in her bile duct, Lisa could still be found swimming at the Southwest YMCA. She had stretches of bad days when the pain was fierce. But other days, the pain was manageable.

These days, money is still an issue for the program Lisa founded. That's why all the proceeds from a self-published novel she wrote will go to the program. The book is about reflection, which Lisa says is the best way to find meaning in our lives; facing the good, the bad, the ugly, and making changes. 

Lisa was given six months to live in October 2009. She lived 26 months instead.