UGA student diagnosed with brain tumor after Mexico spring break trip dies at 21

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A 21-year-old University of Georgia student diagnosed with brain cancer after a trip to Mexico for spring break has died.

Liza Burke was in Cabo San Lucas last month when she got a sudden headache and quickly became unresponsive.

Friends rallied to raise money to fly her to a Florida hospital where her mother lives.

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Initially diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation, Burke was later diagnosed with a stage 4 astrocytoma tumor near her brain stem, also known as a glioblastoma.

“As they started to try to figure out what was going on – she became less and less responsive,” her mother, Laura McKeithen, told Channel 2 Action News. “Your brain stem is where everything happens, and as a result, that’s why she is not waking up.”

McKeithen said that while Burke had not been able to speak, she could communicate with her family to some extent.

Burke underwent three rounds of radiation but didn’t respond to treatment.

Earlier this month, Burke’s family decided to bring her to a home near the beach in Florida to spend her final days.

Friends and family had been visiting and watching her favorite movies in the days before her death.


McKeithen said her daughter died around 2:20 Friday morning while holding hands with her brother, Jack.

“Once he fell asleep and the only eyes on Liza were those of her “other mother,” Liza took a final breath, sighed, and transitioned into the next realm,” McKeithen wrote. “Beane, the dog quickly sensed it and was downstairs while I was being awakened.”

Burke lost her younger sister, Edie, in 2018 to a rare genetic syndrome.

“Liza has now been reunited with her sister and they are making up for lost time!” her mother wrote.

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Friends and family are planning for two celebrations of life, one in Athens and another in Asheville, where Burke is from.

The family is also setting up a fund at the Foundation of the Carolinas in Burke’s name for educational purposes.

Channel 2 Action News lost anchor Jovita Moore to the same type of aggressive, quickly-growing cancer in 2021 at age 54.