Malin Reed Opitz was the happiest, most easy-going 4th grader with the kindest heart who gave her all to everyone, never afraid to love and be loved. On June 5th, 2022, our world was turned upside down when she was unexpectedly diagnosed with a DIPG/DMG brain tumor. “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh without fear of the days to come “ (Proverbs 31:25) was given to Malin by a physician shortly after her diagnosis and became a testament to how she would live during her fight. During her initial stay in the hospital, while being wheeled to the ICU, Malin bravely led her entire family down the hall on the gurney with fists in the air, chanting, “Onward!” With no cure for DIPG/DMG, she faced it head-on with bravery, love, and positivity. She was incredible throughout her life at letting her light shine, caring deeply for other people, even with all she had to endure.
Malin lived life to the fullest, investing her whole heart in everything she did, with everyone she loved. Before diagnosis, she was very healthy and active, involved in all the things. She was incredibly motivated and learned her power and strength with her Level 4 IHG gymnastics team. She looked forward to time with her friends and gaining her independence and courage at summer camps, especially Winnamocka, Ferncliff, Camp Aldersgate, and the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts. She gained confidence and a competitive spirit with her springtime Hillcrest softball teams. She loved Girls on the Run, Jefferson Joggers, and Cammack Village Family Fun Run learning how to dig deep, as running didn’t come easy to her, but loved that if she could prove she wanted it more, she could outrun just about anyone.
She let her creativity come out with her various art classes at the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, or during one of her many drawing challenges with her daddy. She was so smart and creative and loved to learn with her Jefferson Elementary family and looked forward to her favorite subjects – Art, Math, Reading, and G.T. (Gifted and Talented). She had a passion for cooking and baking, always wanting to experiment with new recipes. She was a fish in the water and swam any chance she had and loved a beach trip and snorkeling in search of a blobfish. She loved sleepovers and late-night stories, whether with her mama in the loft or with her grandparents’ or friends’ houses. She cherished her first cousins and always looked forward to spending time with them any chance she could. She loved her couch time cuddling with her spoiled rotten dog, Chewy, and often referred to him as a “good boy, but a bad dog.” Her “Lobsters” were very special to her considering them more family than friends. She treasured her extended family – her many great aunts, uncles, and cousins- and had the fiercest love for all of her friends, always trying to make sure that everyone was included, and all things were fair. She had the biggest heart and always looked for the good in everyone around her. She was incredibly competitive, yet humble, and could beat and outlast anyone at anything, but mostly board games, card games, sports, and Nintendo Switch. She was a go-with-the-flow/chill girl and always logical, even when leading with her heart. She was mature for her age, an old soul, who was able to sit and talk for hours. She was witty and funny with a dry sense of humor that would surprise, with her naturally impeccable comedic timing and her Malin-isms. She loved to travel around the country and was always up for a long weekend road trip. Her goal was to see all 50 states before she graduated high school but was only able to make it to 18 of them. At the end of the day, she cherished her time just being at home with Momma, Daddy, and Chewy.
During her 10 days in the hospital at initial diagnosis, she began her 30 rounds of radiation treatment. She began to see measurable improvement and was able to come home 2 days before her 9th birthday. Over the summer of 2022, Malin continued her radiation and worked tirelessly in OT/PT to be able to go back to school with all her friends at the start of the school year. During her 4th grade year, she was accepted into a clinical trial in San Francisco at UCSF but did everything she could just to be at home and at school with her friends, even if it was only for an hour each day. She took on each day as it came, despite her condition, with the best attitude, making every day count and smiling as long as she was physically able.
After 8 brave months of battling this aggressive monster, she passed away on January 31, 2023, at home where she wanted to be, with her mama and daddy both holding her tight. True to Malin’s character, she wanted her brain tissue to be donated for research at UAMS. Malin knew God has something amazing planned for her. She was strong, she was brave, and she will always be an inspiration to all of us who were so lucky to know her.
“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love”-Hilary Stanton Zunin.