In April 2004, our family’s lives were forever changed when our youngest daughter, Lauren (L-Dub), called us from Frostburg, MD, where she was attending her first year of college - her whole life ahead of her and not a care in the world. She told us that she was coughing up blood. She went to a local hospital where the doctors told us that they believed she had cancer. We brought her home and took her to National Institutes of Health – National Cancer Institute (NIH-NCI ) where she was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare pediatric bone cancer.
We were fortunate that Lauren qualified for a protocol and was able to get treatment at NIH-NCI, which happened to be in our own back yard. We live only 15 minutes away. She began treatment immediately as she had metastatic tumor in her lungs from the original site in her glute muscle. She had multiple cycles of chemotherapy and radiation, a bone marrow transplant, a hip replacement, and surgeries on her lungs and glute muscle. Throughout this grueling process, Lauren remained positive and uplifting. She fought her disease with dignity and courage until December 2011 when she lost her battle, but not before she touched the lives of many others. Let me tell you a little about Lauren. She was born two months early, and came into this world rough. She spent 10 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at George Washington Hospital. Despite challenges from the beginning, she always danced to the beat of her own drummer. A happy child, Lauren was never afraid to try anything. She loved spending time with her family and had lifelong friends. In school, she was an athlete with excellent grades. She loved to play volleyball, which she did throughout middle school, high school and college. She also loved music of any kind, but Dave Matthews, OAR, U2 and Frank Sinatra were her favorites.
After her diagnosis, Lauren continued her college courses, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a teaching degree in Physical Education and Health. She went on to earn her Master’s in Education Administration. She then taught at Mother Catherine Spaulding Elementary School while coaching volleyball at St. Mary’s Ryken High School. Her students loved her. She knew love and married Daniel, whom she met in college and was with her from the onset of her diagnosis. Theirs was a true love story. Lauren lived more in those 8 years than many people live their whole lives. She did not let her disease stop her. She did not let her cancer define her. During her treatment, she traveled to Sarasota and Disneyland, went on a cruise to the Caribbean, and went to the Florida Keys and swam with dolphins. For their honeymoon, Lauren and Daniel cruised to Alaska. Lauren was a joyous, intelligent, thoughtful, inquisitive, determined, adventurous, open-minded, optimistic, loyal, kind, fun-loving, easy-going, artistic young woman, who made you feel as though you had known her forever the first time you met her. She left her mark on this world and we have been forever changed by her presence in our lives.
I would never wish upon anyone the pain a parent feels when he or she loses a child. But from the despair of our loss, hope was born in the form of this non-profit, L-Dub’s Love. Lauren was treated at NIH for 8 years, spending many hours there, but she was never alone. As we walked the halls together, she noticed that some of the children receiving treatment had no one with them. She would at times collect those kids that were able to leave their rooms and take them to the playroom. After Lauren passed, I received a letter from her which stated in part: “Maybe for at least 5 years (I hate to burden you with this forever) there could be a fundraiser to help people get to treatment......We therefore established L-Dub’s Love in Lauren’s honor. We are dedicated to assisting and providing travel resources to families of critically ill children undergoing treatment or at end of life at the NIH. Our non-profit will pay for nuclear family members to be present during treatment and at end of life. L-Dub’s Love recognizes the importance of family support during this time for both the child and the caregiver. We believe that the family is essential in the healing process of each child. No child should be left alone during treatment. It was very important to Lauren to be surrounded by the love and support of her family. We feel this support directly assisted in keeping Lauren with us for so long and kept her spirits high during her treatment. Without assistance from our family and friends, we would not have been able to spend the time we did with Lauren prior to her passing. We will be forever grateful for the love, thoughts and prayers received during that time. It is our hope that L-Dub's Love will be able to help families experience some of the same support we did....Annette Weller, Lauren's Mom , President of L-Dub's Love, Inc.