Meet Lauren, she is 11-years-old and in remission from rhabdomyosarcoma!
On June 24th, 2011, at the age of 3, Lauren was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer called alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. What started out as an innocent stomach ache ended up taking us to the ER with a CT scan that showed a large mass in her abdomen. Lauren was treated at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa. Throughout treatment she hit some road bumps: she lost a significant amount of weight during her radiation treatment, so she had to have a feeding tube placed for supplemental feedings, and one of her chemotherapy drugs (Vincristine) caused neuropathy in her legs which caused her to use a walker (and eventually a wheelchair). She spent the majority of 2011 in-patient at St. Joseph’s for treatment.
Lauren has also had some post-treatment side effects from the harsh chemicals and radiation. Her immune system was severely affected, so she developed multiple ear and sinus infections and eventually had to have her tonsils/adenoids removed and tubes placed in her ears. The Vincristine also weakened the muscles in her eyes, which later lead to strabismus. This required her to have surgery in both eyes. Lauren has been diagnosed with a low heart rate and is currently being monitored for that. In January 2019, she underwent major surgery due to a complication of treatment affecting her ears.
Nevertheless, we are happy and blessed to say that Lauren has been in remission for 6 years, despite the ongoing battle of all the side effects that she will live with for the rest of her life. Lauren is determined to help find safer, more effective treatments for children with cancer, which is why she has been very involved with the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation since going through treatment. Even with everything she has been through, Lauren continues to smile and live her life to the fullest. She reminds us all to enjoy life and to live in the moment!