…72 Days Until Race Day
This is one sweet little lady you are meeting today. Her family is pretty incredible too.
I’ve known Laurel since her diagnosis, on February 18, 2010. She was only 3 when she was told she had Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma (soft tissue tumor growing out from her bladder, metastasized to her lungs).
Her treatment, lasting 12 months, consisted of weekly chemo, surgery to remove her tumor and 30 rounds of radiation over 6 weeks.
Laurel’s last chemo round was January 14, 2011. I chose today to run for her because on this day, February 15, 2011, she had her port removed, signifying the end of treatment.
The long-term effect is lymphedema in her right leg. She wears a compression stocking, both day and night, to control the swelling. Laurel also has manual lymphatic drainage (think of it as a massage technique) and a pump at bedtime to help keep the fluid moving.
Laurel’s mom, Melissa, tells the terrifying story of her diagnosis:
“A few weeks after her 3rd birthday, and 8 days after her baby brother was born, Laurel was complaining of abdominal pain and was running a low-grade fever.
We came home from the pediatrician with antibiotics, and after 2 days without any relief from the pain or a break in the fever, we went back.
This time, the pediatrician could feel “something” in her abdomen. Possibly appendix, maybe a bowel obstruction, maybe “the ‘C’ word”, as the pediatrician put it. We were unclear what she meant by “the ‘C’ word”.
When the word “cancer” came out of her mouth, I thought, “There is NO WAY my child has cancer!”
An ultrasound revealed a mass, about the size of a softball, growing in her abdomen. They could see it was vascular, meaning blood was flowing in and out of it…a cancerous tumor.
We will never forget when the ER doctor came in and sat on Laurel’s bed and told us we needed to sit down. She broke the news of the tumor, but then she added that it had also metastasized to her lungs.
It was awful, truly the worst moment of our lives.
Fear, anxiety, confusion, sadness, all came flooding over us. My husband, usually the ‘rock’ of the two of us, melted into tears. He was always there to ‘make it better’ when Laurel got hurt, but this wasn’t something he could make better with a hug and a kiss.
It took me 2 days to cry. After that, I cried plenty…cried over the pain she was in with every needle poke, cried over what this cancer was doing to her insides, cried over her inability to just be a normal 3- year old kid, cried over hearing stories of children we knew losing their battles, cried over the incredible loss of innocence that this kind of diagnosis brings.
A few months into treatment, Laurel had a CT scan to check the tumor – it had responded well to the weekly chemo treatments and had shrunk significantly. Her team of doctors now felt comfortable going in for surgery to remove the tumor.
After a 10 hour surgery, that nasty mass was finally out of our sweet girl’s body.
Finally, approximately one year after that ER visit, they declared for the first time “No Evidence of Disease” in her body. Such sweet words – Praise God!!
Five years of scans later, she is now declared “cured”!
She is our miracle!
She is a happy healthy 9-year old who loves to dance, play the piano, go to sporting events, and be with her friends and family (especially her little brother Grant).
She visits the Long Term Survivor Clinic at Texas Children’s Cancer Center once a year for a general health checkup.
My husband tells people, ‘When we started this journey, we thought we would be the ones leading Laurel through all of this. But she led us. She showed incredible resilience and strength and endurance in the face of extreme adversity. She showed us how to fight through pain and sickness, and to do it all with a silly laugh and huge smile on her face.’
I think the ‘what if it comes back?’ thought will always be in the back of our minds, but a friend recently told me to change the ‘what if’ to ‘even if’.
Even if her cancer comes back, she will fight and fight hard, and we her family and the good Lord above will be by her side every step of the way.” – Melissa
Laurel and her family have been to the Snowdrop Ultra 55 Hour Race & Relay the past couple of years. Her dad, Steven (of whom I’m a big fan) is always amazed and amused by the incredible distances our competitors cover. In his excitement, he always pats me on the back with his hulking hands as if we’re doing something special.
We’re really not. Laurel is the one who did something special.
Today was a 90 minute run at “low 8’s pace” (each mile was to be under 8:20 pace).
Laurel, we cruised today, kiddo.
Who will you meet tomorrow? I know and it is a story that will rip your heart out. It does mine.