Lauren’s story as told by her parents, Steve and Diane – parents coping with their child’s cancer

From Children's Cancer Hospital
Date: Fall 2007
Duration: 05:32

Diane:
She'd been to cheerleading camp. She had been to summer camp. She had done a lot of activities that summer. She was getting ready to celebrate her 11th birthday and we noticed there was a lump on her side. On her abdomen.

Narrator:
Steve and Diane immediately took their only child, Lauren, to a pediatrician. After x-rays and conflicting information, an ultrasound showed a tumorous mass on her liver.

Steve:
Basically just turned our world upside down, b ecause, first thing Diane said was, she has cancer. And I guess in the back of your mind...

Diane:
You think of a death threat. That's what you think. This is it. 

Steve:
This is it. We had a serious debate about whether to stay home in Dallas...

Diane:
I wanted to be close to my family and friends. I wanted to be close to her school. And my husband kept pushing. He says, that's all they do, everyday. They do cancer treatments. That's where we need to be. And the first thing Dr. Herzog told us was let her lead a normal life if possible. Let her go to school. Let her cheer. Let her do whatever she feels like doing and I think that really helped us just by hearing that she was able to do that. Because as a parent you think, you're sick, you want to shelter her, you want to just keep her confined until this was over. We didn't do that. We just led as normal a life as we could possibly do. She didn't want to come, or she would get here and she would kind of shut down. She wasn't her talkative self. She didn't want to see anyone. She got to the point where she didn't want to be in the room even. Blankets and pillows, we would always have that, only because no matter what, you had to sit, she wanted to be comfortable. So we always had a blanket. Again it was a comfort thing to her, j ust knowing, you know, this is my blanket, it’s comfortable, but we would always bring a blanket and a pillow.

Steve:
We would bring some games from home, some of her favorite games, and entertainment and movies.

Diane:
There's an art area in the children's wing where they have just activities, where you can just do what you like. So they would always have a game night where they played bingo, or they played cards, or they played board games and she loved doing that. Another big help was the Child Life Specialists. Because they came on board early on. Made themselves comfortable - mad e Lauren comfortable with them, almost like a buddy.

Steve:
Well, we have a binder.

Diane:
Every patient should have one.

Steve:
Yes.

Diane:
We had one for Houston. We had one for treatment, we had one for medicine. We had one for vitals, and we took that binder everywhere with us. And after every appointment we would jot down all the information that had transpired on that visit. No matter what it was. We'd make copies of everything and stick it in that binder. And when we completed her treatment we actually got copies of the treatments that were administered the whole time she was here. Her doctor made sure that we had a copy of that and we stuck that in the binder as well. All her surgery. All of that information is in
one location, s o that if we ever have to bring it up to the doctor, she doesn't have to look for records, we've got it all right there.
And you have to ask questions. You have to, I mean, it's a matter of learning a lot of information that you're totally unfamiliar with if you're not in the medical profession. But you just ask questions. You’re given all this information about, you know, types of medicine your daughter's being given or side effects, you know, a lot of that you don't know what to expect, but they always give you a handout with the type of medicine that is being administered and what side effects you can expect. But it was really convenient that you could just actually email online. And that helped us tremendously s ince we were from out of town, if we got back to Dallas, or we'd question something that had been done - e ven just getting copies of information or paperwork, we could email directly here and they would get our information and then send it to us and the nurse was always right there picking up the messages and she would respond immediately to us.

Steve:
She never gave up. And she was just always positive through it all. So...

Diane:
That made a difference, it does. Because kids feed off of your emotions, so if you're afraid or you don't know what to expect, they can sense that. So we always were up front with her, from the beginning. We would always talk about what procedure was coming up. We would talk about it’s going to be uncomfortable, it may be painful. It will not last long. And we always prepared her.

Steve:
Right.

Diane:
We're almost at the one year window so we’re getting there, but it’s still always in the back of your mind. You know, what if. Or what happens next? But we try not to live that way. We try to just go through and like, you know, whatever happens, will happen and we are going to enjoy life today.

Steve:
And you can't live in fear. And you can't live in fear.