Lauren is a junior at The Blake School in Minneapolis where she is known for making others laugh and being friendly to everyone. She is on the soccer team and also involved in The National Charity league with her mom. In her free time, Lauren enjoys swimming and spending time with her older brothers, as well as going to sporting events.
In the summer before her junior year, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Stage IIA—the same diagnosis as Pia, our co-founder. Even before Lauren started treatment, she and Pia were in contact The support she received from Pia, along with her community of friends and family, has made it possible for her to see her diagnosis as a crucial part in becoming the person she is meant to be.
On Give to the Max Day, Lauren shares her story with us.
“I was just recently diagnosed with 2A Hodgkin's Lymphoma on August 29, 2018. It was a long and complicated road to my diagnosis, but looking back, it is so obvious to me that there had been a multitude of signs that something was not working correctly in my body.
First, marble-size lumps appeared last fall all around the base of my neck, and I had had a persistent sinus infection but everyone had thought that the lumps were merely swollen lymph nodes. When I went in to see a doctor in December, I was told to come back if there was growth. Another sign was that I was constantly tired, but I figured I wasn’t getting enough sleep as a teenager and dismissed it. And when I could no longer perform at a high intensity at soccer, I just assumed I was out of shape.
But the lumps continued to aggravate me. Finally, in July, I could no longer sleep on my chest and struggled to move my neck without extreme discomfort, prompting me to uncover what was truly wrong with me. The diagnosis process took the whole month of August. I got a biopsy which took out some cells in a lymph node, it came back inconclusive. Next, they proceeded to take a full lymph node out which also came back inconclusive.
After these inconclusive tests, my first doctor transferred me to Children’s hospital so they could do more specific testing. I was transferred to the Oncology department and got multiple scans. After seeing my scans, my new doctor at Children’s, Dr. Susan Sencer, told me that there were three masses. My symptoms and age made her believe that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This could only be verified through taking a biopsy of one of the masses.
Two days after surgery, my family and I had a meeting with Doctor Sencer. I still believed this whole situation to be a fluke, I was prepared for her to tell me that they had made a mistake. In my mind, I did not feel or look like someone who had cancer. I sat in the waiting room and repeated my statement of denial in my head over and over; I could not possibly be sick. Dr. Sencer explained what the next few months of chemo would look like and my good prognosis.
When first thinking about cancer, my mind when straight to Pia Phillips. She was a recent graduate of Blake, and the founder of PAB’S PACKS. Knowing Pia had had the exact same type of cancer I have was like finding the ultimate cheat sheet. I had so many questions that could really only be answered by someone that has had cancer.
Within a day of my diagnosis, Pia reached out to me. We met that week, before she left for college. Sitting in the coffee shop with Pia, I could immediately tell that her experience with cancer was vastly different than everything I had been told up until that point. Talking with her completely changed my thinking around my diagnosis. Before our conversation, the majority of people were telling me how sorry they were for me, which is completely valid and was also my initial reaction to my diagnosis. My most memorable anecdote from our first conversation was her telling me that she had grown more in those four month of treatment than she had ever in her entire life. She convinced me that these next few months would not be putting my life on pause, but rather, a crucial part in becoming the person I am meant to be.”
In her Instagram post telling family and friends about her diagnosis, Lauren wrote “I know that this is a chapter that I am supposed to go through in becoming the person I am meant to be, but I’m still me. I’m still the same girl that loves to mess around and laugh. Please remember that.”
Like Pia, we hope to help to create a “cheat sheet” for patients and families marked by the comfort and encouragement knowing that someone else sees and knows what it is like to be diagnosed and live with a chronic disease. We may not be able to control a diagnoses, or how a body responds to treatment, but like Lauren, we can control our response to see the good and give back. We’ve got your back Lauren!
The PAB’S team