As CVM region reps, we are privileged to work with fantastic students from all the veterinary colleges in Canada, US, and the Caribbean. It is so special to watch them grow sometimes from even pre-vets, to veterinary students and then new DVM’s. While we try to develop relationship with as many students as possible, there are always some that we connect with deeper through their reaching out to us.
Thizbe Page Balzer was one of those students. I first met her at Western Canada Real Life Real Impact in February 2018. She was a pre-vet student then and I got to know that she had grown up in Malaysia as a “missionary kid” and had come back to Canada for college. She had a heart for missions in Southeast Asia and wanted to become a veterinarian as a way of reaching out to others.
When I went to Western College of Veterinary Medicine for a school visit that fall, Thizbe was there. She had gotten into veterinary college! She was so excited about vet school and getting involved with CVM. She was planning on going on a short-term missions trip to India during her first summer. She called me during her first year to interview me for one of her course projects and we talked about different veterinary career pathways. She asked me to mentor her and we had plans to stay connected regularly.
Then on April 21, 2020, Thizbe went to be with Jesus. I will never forget getting the news. This was during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic shut down and just after another Canadian tragedy. It was about an hour between getting the news that she had passed away and finding out the circumstances and my mid was whirling during that time. Then the news came that Thizbe had an underlying undiagnosed heart disease (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) and she had collapsed while out on a run. Although medical professionals did all they could to save her, she passed away with her brother Emmett by her side. Her parents returned from Malaysia as soon as they could arrange a flight.
Due to restrictions on gathering, only 10 people could be at Thizbe’s memorial, but over 1500 watched it live from around the world and many more have watched it since. We learned about Thizbe’s love of animals, passion for synchronized swimming and dance, but most of all her love for Jesus and sharing it with those around her. I learned that her family has connections with CVM workers through their training and service. So many friends and family poured out tributes about how Thizbe was always full of joy and a bright shining light.
Although we do not understand why Thizbe’s life was so short here, we have confidence that she is dancing with Jesus now. We pray that her story will continue to impact others and to challenge them to place their trust in Jesus and to be filled with the joy and light we saw in Thizbe.