In the fall of 2016, Lauren had graduated from university and was working full-time. But, in less than a week, the 23-year-old’s life was turned upside down when she noticed a large bump on her neck.
Tests revealed why she suddenly felt exhausted, stiff and weak: she had lymphoma. Diagnosed with Stage 2A Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she began chemotherapy at The Princess Margaret.
“This feeling of hopelessness just came over me and that feeling is something I’ll never forget because it was so strong and I was so scared for my life at that moment,” says Lauren.
Bravery Bell kept her going throughout treatments
Lauren says she kept the Bravery Bell in mind at all times during her treatment and when she heard people ringing it, it gave her hope that one day it would be her.
“One of the things that kept me going was envisioning myself ringing that bell and my family being around me and being so happy to be done. I think having something like that in mind helps you get through it.”
On the last day of her chemotherapy treatment, that moment she spent so long thinking about finally became a reality. She rang the Bravery Bell, surrounded by her family.
“I’ll never forget hearing so many people cheering for me. Now, whenever I hear the Bravery Bell, I tear up because I know the person ringing it is as excited and as relieved as I was,” says Lauren.
‘You can get through anything’
Just one month after her chemotherapy ended, she was back at the Cancer Centre for round-two of her treatment, undergoing a four-week daily regimen of radiation.
Lauren received precision radiotherapy to her neck and chest, reducing the dose to normal tissue, to decrease the risk of late effects.
Six months later, Lauren returned to work, something that seemed nearly impossible just months before while she was battling cancer.
“I’m trying to live my life to the fullest right now and do all the things I couldn’t when I was sick," says Lauren. "Cancer will probably be the hardest thing I’ll ever go through. Now, I tell myself, ‘You got through chemo. You got through radiation. You can get through anything.’"
Lauren's radiation mask was molded to her face to prevent movement while receiving radiation treatments to ensure the radiation was targetted to specific areas.