Team LaurenStrong

The First Annual Team LaurenStrong St. Baldrick’s event will take place Tuesday, April 22, 2014.  The event will take place at BJ’s Brewhouse on Laguna Blvd. in Elk Grove, CA.  Team LaurenStrong is dedicated to continuing Lauren’s message that childhood cancer exists and needs research funding to give kids better outcomes.  Lauren’s dad and brother, John and Mark, will be shavee’s, as well as Lauren’s BFF Kevin and 8-year-old neighbor Owen.  Anyone who would like to join Team LaurenStrong is welcome!  Of course, anyone can sponsor a shavee on the team too!  Please stop by the event to show your support if you are in the area that day.  The shaving will take place 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm.  http://www.stbaldricks.org/teams/mypage/93071/2014

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In addition, BJ’s Brewhouse will donate 15% of food sales between 11:00 am and 9:00 pm for anyone who presents an food donation event flyer that day.  A flyer is attached to this post for your convenience.  Please help to raise funds for childhood cancer research and honor Lauren’s wishes to continue to bring awareness to childhood cancer.Image

Lauren’s Celebration of Life and Her Legacy

Lauren’s Celebration of Life was a very touching event on February 22, 2014. There were somewhere around 500-600 people in attendance, with people from all areas of her life. Some people read her blog or heard her on the radio and felt compelled to attend, although they had never met her in person. As parents, her dad and I were extremely touched that Lauren had such an effect on so many people. Lauren wanted people to know that cancer happens to young people and her message certainly got out.

Laguna Creek High School was instrumental in converting the gym and multipurpose room into warm, inviting rooms. The principal, Doug Craig, and activities director, Jerry Haynes, were on site since the early morning until everything was taken down in the afternoon. The ASB set up all the chairs and tables and the LCHS swim team handed out the programs and memory pages for guests to note memories of Lauren. Lauren’s cousin, Leslie Kavasch, designed the program and my bosses, Chris and Valerie Rhodes supplied the printing. As the celebration was about to begin, the ROTC came in with the flags to present the colors. This was the wonderful idea of one of the members, who had wrestled with Lauren and is now a senior at the school. The high school choir sang some beautiful songs during the service, including a touching version of “Tears in Heaven.”

There was an opening slide show that is attached to this post and is also available on YouTube that Lauren’s uncle, Kent Kavasch made. The “babysit” co-op was in full attendance at the service, with Steve McKibben leading the prayers and Howard Davis speaking about the co-op and memories of Lauren growing up. One of Lauren’s teachers, Eric Johnson, spoke about having Lauren as a student. Next was one of her high school swim coaches, Brenda Smart. Brenda touched on Lauren’s stubborn nature and how, once she trusted you, she trusted you completely.

Egor spoke about how Lauren had affected his life and how important their friendship was. It was so emotional to see his pain and obvious love for Lauren. They were true “best friends forever.” There was a short tribute video that I found on YouTube that we didn’t know had been made. It turns out it was made by a previous classmate from high school. The clip has also been attached to this post. Lauren’s aunt, Catherine Kavasch, spoke about Lauren’s desire to get more awareness of childhood cancer and how she wanted research funded, if not for her, for other kids yet to be diagnosed.

The celebration ended with the wedding video. If anyone has missed watching the video, it is on her blog that she posted October 22nd. Be warned, you will need Kleenex while watching. It was important to show the video because at the end Lauren thanks everyone for their support. She was truly thankful to everyone who wrote kind words, sent her cards, or gave her unique experiences. She felt her life had purpose when so many followed her blog and sent messages of support.

Following the wedding video, guests were invited to the multipurpose room for some food and drinks. The food was really good and was provided by Plaza del Sol in Elk Grove. The owner and his wife helped serve the food during the entire reception. Around the perimeter of the room were beautiful tables that had mementos from Lauren’s many activities. There were six tables that represented the co-op, high school, swim, other sports, Kaiser, and the wedding. They were beautifully set up, just like a high-end store or museum.

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The babysit co-op made the entire celebration possible. They came over and helped put the table items together days before the service, arranged for the flowers, supplied the desserts, and set up the multipurpose room so beautifully. In addition, they had set up a beach chair, palm tree, and a water-looking backdrop at the front of the gym. It was so Lauren! We are truly blessed to be surrounded by such caring people who truly loved Lauren as their own.

Slide Show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1YLi6lBhn0

Tribute Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkiNICVo188

LCHS Anti-bullying Assembly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZSAESLFs70

Bay Area Article: http://us.topnewstoday.org/us/article/9771502/

Obituary: http://www.egcitizen.com/articles/2012/07/17/lifestyle/doc5005f12e4b0d8588674944.txt

DVC Lacrosse Article: http://dvc.stage.lacrosseshift.com/news/oh-captain

DVC Paper: http://www.theinquireronline.com/news/2014/02/11/dvc-swimmer-loses-battle-to-cancer/

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Since the service, there have been many people helping to keep Lauren’s message out there. KCRA did a follow-up story and I was interviewed by Beth Ruyak at Capital Public Radio. It’s still amazing how Lauren made such an impact on the people at KCRA and Capital Public Radio. I hope they realize the impact they made on Lauren.

There was a St. Baldrick’s event in Sacramento on March 10th. Steve McKibben shaved his head for Lauren, including another 20 more on Team Lauren. As a team, they raised over $5500 for childhood cancer research. Overall, the event had 259 participants who raised a total of $143,646. That will certainly make a difference to children diagnosed with cancer! In addition to Team Lauren, one of Lauren’s oncology family, Eden Melgoza, had a personal participant. Eden’s six year old brother, Mason, decided to get his head shaved in honor of Eden and in memory of Andrew Rundle and Lauren. He raised over $1200 in one weekend. What a big heart he has!  Travis Air Force Serviceman, Rob, showed up for the event and participated too.  He followed Lauren’s blog and visited her in the hospital in January so he could meet her.

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There will be an Elk Grove St. Baldrick’s event on April 22nd from 4:00 – 8:00 at BJ’s Brewhouse. BJ’s will donate 15% of their food sales from 11:00 – 9:00 that day to St. Baldrick’s for every flyer that is presented. Lauren’s brother, Mark, has a good friend who is on Team LaurenStrong. Brice will be shaving his head, along with two of his brothers, Chris and Parker. Parker is 14 years old and this will be his 7th time participating in St. Baldrick’s. Mark, dad, and I get to shave the three brothers’ hair that day. They have been growing their hair all year for this event. People can join Team LaurenStrong or start their own team for the event. See the attached page from St. Baldrick’s. http://www.stbaldricks.org/events/laurenstrong

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Bring the BJ’s flyer to the April 22nd St. Baldrick’s event to have 15% of food sales donated to St. Baldrick’s to support childhood cancer research.

Diablo Valley College will recognize Lauren at the school level, conference level, and the state level. Plans are in the early stages, but it is so awesome that they feel so strongly about honoring Lauren. She loved that school and it appears the school loved her back.  The DVC Swim Team created a large banner that is displayed at the pool for all to see.  It simply says, “We are LaurenStrong.”  They also presented the family with a special photo album/scrap book of the swim team and Lauren.  It touched our hearts.  Also, the DVC Lacrosse team will retire the #1 jersey that they presented Lauren with at a match in the Fall.

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Lauren’s aunt, Catherine Kavasch, has set up a team for Relay for Life in San Lorenzo called “The Not Dying Girl.” It will be held August 9th. The page can be reached here: http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLCY14CA?team_id=1573192&pg=team&fr_id=57861&__utma=2443503.1371112106.1395637240.1395637240.1395637240.1&__utmb=2443503.4.10.1395637240&__utmc=2443503&__utmx=-&__utmz=2443503.1395637240.1.1.utmcsr=main.acsevents.org|utmccn=(referral)|utmcmd=referral|utmcct=/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLCY14National&__utmv=-&__utmk=155796792

 

KCRA Update: https://vimeo.com/89264483

Insight with Beth Ruyak: http://www.capradio.org/news/insight/2014/03/13/insight-031314/

 If anyone would like to continue to get the message out that children get cancer, please ask the government to support research efforts and find an event to participate in. Many people think, “It’s not my child.” Three years ago it wasn’t our child either. Cancer does not discriminate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final CaringBridge Entry

A blog reader commented on the CaringBridge entry, so here it is.  The details of Lauren’s final fight show she never gave up.

Things happened so fast, it’s hard to realize it’s real.  Lauren passed away on Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 7:30 am.  After speaking at Laguna Creek High School, her alma mater, on January 24th, at an anti-bullying assembly, Lauren was feeling like she made a difference to the students.  Lauren got two units of blood on Wednesday, January 29th and was feeling much better.  She was looking forward to attending the first Diablo Valley College Swim Meet on Friday to cheer on her former teammates.  The next day she woke up and had a lot of difficulty breathing.  She called 911 and an ambulance took her to the South Sacramento ER. Dad had driven to the house and followed the ambulance while mom drove from work to the ER.

It was determined that the extra fluids involved with getting the blood the day before caused her body to retain too much fluid.  She was given lasix and that made her feel better, but she still needed some help with oxygen.  For the first time, Lauren used the oxygen concentrator that has been in the family room since June.  She had it at a level “3.”  The next day, she asked Mark to increase it to a level “4.”  No swim meet that day because she couldn’t be off oxygen.

On Saturday, when mom went downstairs, Lauren asked for a wheelchair to take her from the bathroom to the couch, which is about 15 feet away.  She was very short of breath and the concentrator was increased to a “5,” its highest level.  Hospice was called and the nurse came to check out the situation.  Her doctor was called to find out his recommendation.  After discussing that this was a progression of her cancer, Lauren decided she wanted to be at home.

Albuterol was ordered, but after receiving the treatment, there was no change.  Lauren wanted to go to Roseville Kaiser, but didn’t think she could make it that far.  911 was called again and they put her on a C-pap to South Sacramento Kaiser.  After she was stabilized, Lauren was taken by ambulance to Roseville.  We were all so thankful that Lauren could be with the staff who knew her and loved her. Before leaving to South Sacramento, Lauren told mom she didn’t want to die in Sacramento.  It was important to Lauren to be with those she had spent so much time with and developed such close relationships with.

Lauren was going to go into Pediatric ICU, but they arranged it so she had a double-sized room on the main floor.  This way her regular nurses could take care of her and stop by to visit.  So many came by to check on Lauren and give her loving support.  Her oxygen saturation continued to decrease.  Eventually, they put her on 100% oxygen.  Dad and Mark had driven to both hospitals while mom rode in the ambulance with Lauren.  After awhile, Susan and Kevin Balko came.  Soon after Job and Abe joined up.  A bit later, Chris and Valerie Rhodes, the owners of Deanne’s company, visited to support Lauren and the family.  We were very thankful for the double-sized room, with so many wanting to be there for Lauren.  Lauren was told that Egor was flying up the next day to be with her.

We found out that the shading on Lauren’s right lung was not fluid, but tumors that had now spread to her “good” lung.  Lauren was really struggling for breath, even with the forced air being used.  She wasn’t able to talk much due to the oxygen mask, but she was aware of everyone who came by.  Lauren’s  former Nurse Practitioner, Tamara, was in town so she came by to give her love.  She stayed until 1:00 am helping to provide support.  Tamara asked Lauren if she was in pain and she shook her head “no.” Then Tamara asked if she was afraid, and she again shook her head “no.” Three other friends of Lauren’s visited and they stayed until almost 2:00 am.

The doctors and nurses made sure to keep Lauren comfortable by giving her pain relief and anti-anxiety meds.  By the early morning Lauren was not responsive.  She passed away very peacefully and painlessly.  Although she wanted to keep fighting her cancer, she fought until there was no fight left in her body.  She was a true warrior.

A celebration of Lauren McCullough’s life will be held on Saturday, February 22, 2014, at 2:00 pm at Laguna Creek High School in the gym.  It is located at 9050 Vicino Drive in Elk Grove, CA 95758.  All are welcome who would like to celebrate and remember Lauren.  The dress is casual and as Lauren would have wanted: Beachy/tropical attire.  In lieu of flowers, those so inclined may make a donation to one of Lauren’s selected charities:
www.sunbeamfoundation.org
www.stjude.org
www.stbaldricks.org
www.childrenscancer.org
www.dreamfoundation.org

This picture was taken in Hawaii in 2011, just days before the cancer was discovered in her leg.  This exemplifies how Lauren lived her life and enjoyed all the good things she was able to experience.

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A Celebration of Life

A celebration of Lauren Mccullough’s life will be held on Saturday, February 22, 2014, at 2:00 pm at Laguna Creek High School in the gym.  It is located at 9050 Vicino Drive in Elk Grove, CA 95758.  All are welcome who would like to celebrate and remember Lauren.  The dress is casual and as Lauren would have wanted: Beachy/tropical attire.  In lieu of flowers, those so inclined may make a donation to one of Lauren’s selected charities:
www.sunbeamfoundation.org
www.stjude.org
www.stbaldricks.org
www.childrenscancer.org
www.dreamfoundation.org

The Warrior has her Angel Wings

Lauren passed away peacefully on February 2, 2014 at 7:30 am.  She was at Kaiser Roseville, where she had her favorite nurses and doctors caring for her.  Lauren lived life to the fullest to the end.  

Please remember Lauren’s words she has written and go back to them when you are going through a tough time.  Remember to focus on the positive and not be a “Negative Nancy.”

Services are yet to be determined.

John and Deanne McCullough

New Year, New Goals, Same Me

So I guess it has been quite a few weeks since I have last posted in my blog, and this time it is because I had a rough past few weeks. I always hate having to report when I am not doing well so I postponed my writing until now- when I can say that I am feeling much better than I have been.

I need to update you guys on my Vegas trip first! So for my 21st birthday present my mom took me to Las Vegas and we went with one of my mom’s ex-coworkers and her daughter, whom I am a day older than and have tons of childhood memories with. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed for about thirty minutes, which was much to my annoyance because I really wanted to go and sight see in Vegas ASAP! Luckily, I was able to get preferred boarding due to my cancer so I did not have to wait in line for a long time to board the plane and got some of the front seats. Kathryn and I sat together on the plane ride down to Las Vegas so we could catch up and she could tell me all about her college adventures and plans to study abroad in England. The flight was short, thank goodness! I have to say, the Las Vegas International Airport is very different from any other airport I have been to, and I have been to a lot of airports. The first thing I noticed walking around was that there were lights everywhere, flashing advertisements, slot machines as far as the eye could see, and that smoking was permitted inside. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the other person who sat beside Kathryn was carrying a cat onboard. She was having a cat show and I have to say, the cat was pretty darn ugly- and I am obviously a cat person. I thought it was pretty funny nevertheless. Anyways, we all hitched a ride with a taxi to get to where we were staying, the Paris Hotel. This taxi driver was my favorite of the bunch because he was incredibly friendly and likes MMA and was looking forward to the fight that would occur that weekend in Vegas with Anderson Silva. When we got to our hotel, I was amazed by how big it was! Clearly a lot of money was spent to make this hotel fancy and a place where you want to spend a lot of time (sans smoking). The ceiling had clouds on it and there were tons of slot machines here as well. There were quite a few restaurants and bars in the hotel as well, which was interesting because you could still have a pretty decent Vegas experience just by staying in the hotel, which is crazy. We got all checked in and my mom rented a scooter for me to get around in because I do get tired more easily than the average person and there is no need to spend my energy walking and having to rest all the time when I can get around perfectly fine in a motorized scooter. When we got to our room, which was on the 15th floor, our senses were overloaded with the smell of lemon pledge. Not the most pleasant thing in the whole world, especially when your sense of smell is incredibly good due to chemo. We could not open a window or anything, so we turned on the A/C and were very disappointed with how not-cold the air was. By the end of the trip the air was set to around 61 degrees, but I know for a fact that it was nowhere near that- it was probably around 70 degrees. That, and the stupid refrigerator was not super cold so we did not feel safe eating leftovers (not that we even had a microwave anyways). But our room had a nice view of Vegas and there were two queen beds which were very comfortable, so I was pleased with that. While my mom, Kathryn, and Cheryl went to explore the lobby and the hotel some more, I stayed in the room and rested up and iced my back to make sure that I could function well for the evening because Kathryn and I were on the VIP guest list to the Hakkasan club in the MGM hotel. It was pretty funny how we got on the guest list and decided to choose this club to go to. I had posted pictures on Instagram and tagged “Vegas” in them, and a club promoter stated that Steve Aoki was going to be DJing that night and to text the promoter to get on the list. So we did just that so we would get in for free! But anyways, after I was done resting up, I went downstairs and met up with everyone and then almost immediately went back upstairs to get dressed up for dinner and for clubbing later. I chose to wear my red and black lace dress with an Ariel-red wig for the evening. I figured I might was well have fun and go all out with the wig so I could stand out. I chose the restaurant for the evening (and for the whole trip because I put the time in to research the food to make sure that we had excellent food the entire time) and got reservations for 6:30pm at Mastro’s seafood restaurant, and since I read that the treehouse was a cool place to eat in, I asked to be seated there. I did all of this online! So when we got to the restaurant, I was pleased to find out that we did get a table in treehouse, which turned out to be amazing. It was kind of a wood structure that was hollowed out, words cannot exactly explain it but it was really cool. Every item on the menu was incredibly expensive, but it was a fancy restaurant and we were in Las Vegas, so I figured it had to be good, especially based on the reviews that I had read. Now I told you guys that I would not be getting drunk on my Vegas trip, and that stayed true. I just sipped and tried different things that everyone else ordered. There was a chocolate martini on the menu that I was interested in, so my mom ordered it and I got a sip. Too much alcohol for me to really enjoy, but there was a chocolate covered strawberry on top and I was all for that. On my list for things to do in Vegas was to try food that I had never had before and to get some new taste experiences. I saw that oysters Rockefeller were on the menu and knew that I had to go for those. My mom and Cheryl were pretty against it, saying that if I ordered it then I had to eat it all. They also tried to tell me that they were raw, however, I have seen enough cooking competitions to know exactly what oysters Rockefeller were- and they are certainly not raw. So after arguing, I asked the waiter to enlighten them on it. He, of course, sided with me and told us that they were baked with parmesan cheese and spinach. So needless to say, we ordered that and I felt proud that I could prove them wrong. When the oysters arrived to the table, I was excited to try them- they smelled amazing! Cheryl still was very unsure about the whole thing because she was not a fan of oysters. After Kathryn, my mom, and I all raved about how amazing they were and how not-fishy they were and how rich they tasted, Cheryl finally gave in and ate one. Yeah, needless to say, she really liked them as well. I felt accomplished! There were six oysters for four people, so Kathryn and I got the pleasure of eating two each. We all ordered different food so we could try certain parts of the menu. I ordered lobster mashed potatoes (which was technically a side that is meant to share family style), Cheryl ordered truffle and crab mac and cheese as well as a chicken Caesar salad, Kathryn ordered Salmon and a side of asparagus, and my mom ordered the sea scallops and a side of scalloped potatoes. We had so much food to go along, it was insane. My favorites were my mashed potatoes, the scallops, and of course the oysters from earlier. We had quite a lot of food leftover, so we did get the bang for our buck in the end. Also, the waiter knew that it was both Kathryn and my birthday present, and out came two exquisite cakes with writing in chocolate sauce that said, “Happy 21st Birthday”. Wow was I impressed! I was not hungry for dessert, but once I saw their infamous butter cake, I knew I was in for a treat. I was not in the mood for chocolate cake, which was the other cake we got, so I went all for the butter cake. It was the best cake I have ever had, and I have had a lot of cakes. It was super moist and dense and rich, and I ate bite after bite of that. Everyone decided that the butter cake was their favorite, and I felt so bad that I could not finish the whole thing because of how good it was. So after dinner there was enough time for us to walk around the mall where the restaurant was located so we did a bit of window shopping. The mall had so many expensive stores in it and although I have the money to buy the brand name items like Tiffany and Georgio Armani, I refused to spend my money on something like that. I couldn’t justify spending my money like that, it would kill me. The most I have ever spent on any item was $128 on a Michael Kors wallet- it was the first time that I had ever just blindly shopped for something. I needed the wallet for my Hell’s Kitchen trip, and this would be fancy enough and hold my cell phone in case I needed it. So I can totally justify that purchase! Anyways, back to Vegas. So eventually it got late enough to where Kathryn and I were going to go to the club (by ourselves, which was more of an experience for Kathryn than it was for me, because I have done my fair share of clubbing and she has not) so we took a taxi over to the MGM and found our way to the club. Turns out that it is really easy to get on the VIP list, but we did not care because it meant getting in the club for free, even if it did mean that we had to wait a long time in line. Kathryn and I were approached by two Asian guys who were also in the VIP section. They basically asked if they could be our “dates” while in line to get in the club. They were completely harmless and nice, so I did not have a problem with that and we talked to them for quite a while. They were definitely into us, which was super flattering, but I wouldn’t have hooked up with anyone, no matter how good looking they were. I have a few too many problems at this point, and not to mention I had the wig on which could prove to be a little awkward. It was pretty funny, the guy who was into me asked me, “So Lauren, are you happily married or happily engaged?” and I have to say that I laughed and kind of awkwardly said that it was a long story and that technically, no I was not. Once we got in the club, we separated and Kathryn and I only stayed for about twenty minutes because there was absolutely nowhere to sit. No stools at the bar, no loveseats, only booths that you would have to purchase. This was not going to work with my bad back and low stamina! Kathryn’s feet were hurting because of her stripper heels, while I was comfortable in my black heel-boots which are nicely worn in. So for some reason, instead of taking the taxi back to the hotel, Kathryn wanted to take the monorail back because it would cost less. I really wanted to take the taxi instead, but I did not vocalize it. So we walked a really long way to the monorail and then had another long walk to go from the monorail to the hotel. I regretted not speaking up because I was hurting so badly. That night, I felt the pain of overdoing it. I had already had a cough before I arrived at Vegas from overworking my lungs and irritating them, but this was different. I was coughing nonstop all night, and it was really hardcore coughing. I was hurting so bad and needed ice a lot, and it turns out that when I was sleeping (finally) I was moaning in pain after every exhale. I did not realize this until my mom asked me how I was doing, and I had to complain that I was not feeling very great! No sleep and coughing up a lung, no fun for Vegas! So the next day, I was in a ton of pain and had to call the on-call doctor from the hotel to see if there was something we could do about the pain. I told Dr. Jolly that I felt like I had collapsed my lung again (that is how bad it hurt) and by describing where the discomfort was, we were able to determine that I did not collapse my lung. Instead, we figured out that I had either broken a rib or torn some cartilage. He told me what pain pills I could use and how often, based on the pills that I did have on me for the trip. So we finally got my pain under control, but I had decided that I would stay inside the hotel room all day up until the evening- when I would be seeing the show “O”. My mom stayed with me the entire day and we watched tv and had good mother-daughter bonding time, which was really nice. Kathryn and Cheryl went out exploring and shopping some more while we were in the hotel, and I don’t feel like I really missed out. Luckily, since my mom ordered my scooter the day before, it was already in the room when it was time to get out of the hotel. I was mobile and it was such a relief having that scooter, I would not have been able to go anywhere without it. So I have to say, watching the performance “O” was amazing- the acrobats, synchronized swimmers, divers, dancers, everyone was so talented and athletic. I have no idea what the story of the performance was or if there was any, but it sure was entertaining! So after that we went and gambled a little bit (I spent $10 overall on the slots) and found out that I do not like it. I would rather spend my money elsewhere. I enjoyed playing the slots on my Pokemon games, but this is with real money and I was not down to lose very much of it. So then I went and bought some shot glasses and a really pretty t-shirt from a shop that was in the hotel. Then my mom and I went to a restaurant where I ate some amazing fish tacos. This place had really good food and was cheap- especially for Vegas. My mom spent less on her margarita than she did on my lemonade, which is crazy. Then we went back to the hotel and got some sleep so we could spend our last few hours in Las Vegas (on Sunday) and be well rested. We packed up and got ready and were out of the hotel at probably 12pm. I cannot complain about that! We went to this French restaurant that was close by (and I had staked this one out too) and we got a nice table outside. I ordered a corned beef hash with a poached egg (which was soooo good!), my mom got a lobster roll (again, really good) and I do not remember what Kathryn and Cheryl got, although Kathryn spilled her mimosa on herself and was not too pleased, I personally would not touch alcohol early in the morning

anyways, especially since I am not a fan of alcohol to begin with. When we were finished with our brunch, we went to retrieve my scooter only to find this Asian girl on it. Rude much! So I had a warm seat when I got back on my scooter and was still in shock that someone would allow their 12 year old child to sit in someone’s scooter, that is just unheard of. So naturally, I loudly complained about how rude it was and went on my way. Our group got to go around and visit Caesar’s Palace and visit the stores inside, which was cool and took up our time before going back to the airport. What was cool about Caesar’s Palace is that the ceiling changes colors and stuff, which I had never seen other than in a Harry Potter movie. On the streets, it was very awkward because there were these men constantly snapping cards to get peoples’ attention and give them a card for an escort. So you could say many cards with hookers’ contact info were scattered on the sidewalk. Unfortunately, when it came time to leave, our flight was again delayed. This time it was delayed for probably an hour, which pissed me off because I was tired and in a lot of pain and wanted to get back home as soon as possible. Again, I got preferred boarding, but this time only my mom was allowed to board with me so we got nice seats. When we finally got back to Sacramento, I noticed that Chad Mendes, a UFC fighter from Sac was on our flight. Clearly he had gone to Las Vegas to see the fight that was going on during the weekend. That was neat, I did not go up to him because I was tired and cranky and I figured he was probably tired as well.

On Monday, I noticed that I had major bruising along my ribs due to my coughing. I knew I had done some damage! Now I will tell you about my New Years.

My crew had decided a little last minute to through a New Year’s Eve party, which had me excited because I really wanted to hang out with all of my friends. I had an outfit planned out, a black kind of lacy corset and a new pair of jeans. For my hair, I went with my favorite wig- blonde on top and pink on the bottom, it was long and soft and really pretty, which is amazing considering how cheap it was! I looked pretty darn good if I do say so myself. So I drove myself to the party and said my hello’s to my friends who were serving as the bouncers. When I got inside and turned the corner, Egor immediately saw me and hugged me and that was right when a bunch of pictures were being taken of the group, of course I had to get in on them and Egor insisted (not that I needed any convincing). For some reason, this asshole of a kid told me that this was a “family picture” and that he had known all of these guys since 8th grade (which I know is not true) and that since I am not in the family I could not be in the picture. What?! He smirked and was feeling all proud of himself and I was just astonished. I stood up for myself (but did not get in any of the pictures because of that asshole). I said, “Excuse me? Are you serious?” really loudly to make it known that what he had done was not ok. Egor then came over and I explained what had happened, to which Egor told the guy that I was in the group longer than he was and told him off. The asshole then apologized and hugged me, although I am sure it was not sincere. I just could not believe how rude he was! Egor ended up explaining it again to him later that what he had done was wrong. That made me feel good, but I wish I had said more to that kid, as we had met before, at least twice, and that I actually hang out with the crew way more and actually know them as people and do not just party with them. Last time I checked, we have hangouts, go to the beach, eat dinner, and just hang out- the asshole (who was wearing a very questionable outfit) does not. Anyways, I got to see all of my friends and hang out with them for a little while, all of them were happy with how healthy I looked and did not recognize me at first because I had on my wig. DeAngela also came to the party and we hung out the whole time, we were both sober the whole night and kind of watched what was going on. There were some kids who really should not have been there who were overly drunk and annoying. Go figure, they were people who had just graduated and who do not know their limits with liquor. They were falling over and being sloppy, and there was almost a problem between myself and one of them- if that chick would have hit me on my bad side, and she was sitting to my left, but luckily she moved before she could hit me. I did warn her that my left side was my bad side and that there would be problems if she bumped into it! She did not exactly catch what I was saying and was incoherent. Another kid who had just graduated passed out on the couch and landed right on Aiyanna- and she felt the same way that I did about the girls, she would have hit or pushed someone who drunkenly fell on her. We both were confused that this guy had suddenly decided to lay on her, but it turns out that he had just passed out. So naturally, people drew on him and took pictures of him and with him. Another reason not to get out of control drunk! Aiyanna and I were sitting on one of the two couches up until the point where a drunk girl decided that she could not hold in her liquor and puked in between the gap of the two couches. I could see it happening and I wanted to give her a cup or something, but I didn’t react fast enough and I was afraid that she would have puked on me. So Aiyanna and I ended up smelling the puke and decided to get up immediately after that. I wish I got to hang out with my friends a little bit more, but it was hectic and everyone was doing their own thing. I just stayed on the couch for most of the night and observed things, and I was not bored! I enjoy watching drunk people, they do the funniest things and say the funniest things, and besides, I am normally the sober one at the party so this was nothing new to me.

Two days after New Year’s was when I was scheduled for my next chemo. I got an echocardiogram and was cleared for my three days of chemo (but 5 days in the hospital) because my heart was doing well. I also got an xray which did end up showing that I broke my rib. Imagine that, breaking a rib because you are coughing so hard! So I was in quite a bit of pain, and it took too long for me to get my meds when I went inpatient, so my pain got out of control and it took quite a few hours to get it back under control. My body got flooded with fluids and I was really out of it when I was in the hospital. I am sure that it scared my parents, because I would say something in my sleep (well my passed-out state) and then wake up. I would say weird things and act out my dreams, I was not very coherent during my entire stay in the hospital. I was on a lot of pain meds and was also on Ativan and who knows what else. My body just did not react well to having so many fluids in it, as my body absorbs them like a sponge. I also had fevers almost every day and was in the ICU for a day because I was doing so poorly. I was on tons of lasics (basically to make you pee out all of the extra fluids) so I did not get much sleep and since I was so out of it, it was hard to walk to the bathroom. In the ICU, I had to use a portable toilet that was right near my bed. Even with the toilet right there, I still managed to pee myself (only once, and it was right before I made it to the seat). Yeah, embarrassing to admit, but it is just part of my life. That is the power of lasics working and also me being pretty out of it did not help my situation at all. Once I was out of the ICU (someone needed the room more than I did) I still had my fevers. The highest it got to was 102.9, which is crazy high! Also, I cannot remember most of what happened when I was in the hospital. I was in for 6 days and most of what I did I cannot account for. I do not remember who visited me or what was said for the most part, except that I met my new hospice nurse, Bev, and I really like her. She actually sees me as a person and is fun to talk to and she is genuine, unlike my last hospice nurse. I also remember something that brings tears to my eyes still. This guy who reads my blog and follows me (I think his name is Rob) came to visit me at my hospital room. It was about 8pm and I got a knock at the door, so my dad looked out and here was Rob, holding a teddy bear and a card to give to me. He had offered to take me sky diving but that isn’t possible due to my janky leg and the radiation that it has had, but he just stopped by because he thought I could use a smile and he definitely made my day. I just thought it was so thoughtful and nice that someone who does not know me would go out of his way to come see me. Little things like that are the best, and it is just the sweetest thing in the world. I finally got to go home on January 9th at about 6pm. I was so glad to be home, but I still was not out of the woods. I was still kind of out of it and dizzy, but that went away probably a day later. I just do so much better when I am at home! I recovered very fast once I was home. I also lost a bit of the steroid chubby cheeks because of the steroids, which was nice. But it did take a few days before I got back to eating normally. I went into the hospital at 137lbs, which is by far my heaviest, which can be accounted for by steroids, and a week later at home I measured at 127lbs. Crazy, losing 10lbs in a week. That proves how bad I was feeling and how little I was eating, but at least I never puked! I am thankful for that!

Something I would like to address is that once someone has gone through cancer treatment, their body is different. I have many more scars than I started out with (luckily I already had many due to being active) such as my one inch long port scar, a dot above the port scar, scars from needles and IVs, my biopsy scar on my leg, quite a few scars along my ribs, and more. I am also super shaky, especially in the hands, because of my treatment. I can no longer sneeze (sounds crazy, but it is true) but I still feel the urge and painful tickle that I need to sneeze, but radiation in that area has caused me to no longer have that amazing ability to relieve myself with a nice sneeze. My left lung no longer fully inflates, so my stomach and diaphragm have moved up on that side, which has led to me having scoliosis that is pretty noticeable. I already had one shoulder higher than the other that was obvious from the back, but now I look crooked from any view. I have heartburn just about every day. Once you are done with cancer treatment, you figure that all of your problems are solved. But everyone gets their own set of post-cancer problems. Of course we would take these problems any day over having cancer, but you just don’t expect to have more issues to deal with after everything is done with. I know that with me, and I am sure with others too, that every time I got an issue, had muscle pain, or was ill, that the first thing on my mind was that my cancer was back. It is always in the back of our minds. Before, I would never have worried about a sore muscle or any weird symptom, but now it is very worrisome. It was in the back of my mind in May when my lung was bad, although I was giving every excuse in the book as to why it could not possibly be that my cancer was back. Most of the time, the worries are for nothing. In my case, unfortunately it was my worst nightmare. So next time you see someone who has dealt with cancer, please realize that there are still things going on with them and give them a little bit of a break if you are quick to criticize what they are doing and why.

http://www.sunbeamfoundation.org/cms/index.php

http://www.stjude.org/

http://www.stbaldricks.org/

http://ewings-sarcoma.org.uk/

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email: shashimi1992@yahoo.com

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly (Even if I am Not Feeling Too Fantastic)

I know that normally I do not post as much when I am feeling well because I am out and about, but this time I haven’t been posting very much because I am feeling too fantastic. I wish that I could report that I am doing well, but that is not the case! I have had a fever for a few days and it turns out that part of it was steroid withdrawal. Yeah, my steroids were tapered just a little too fast and I was going through some insane withdrawal symptoms. My whole body hurt- body aches, headaches, joint aches, and a fever. I went to the doctor on Friday and got some blood tests done and there were no signs that I have an infection or anything. So that is good news! I just got back on my steroids on a low dose and am going to very slowly and gradually decrease my dose because I do not need to have the awful joint aches to where I literally walk like a 90 year old woman. Not the most comfortable thing to have to deal with!

It kind of feels like I have had one healthy, good day for every two bad days since I went through my withdrawal symptoms. I also believe that I do have a little sickness of some sort because I still have my fever, but it is not high enough to have to be admitted for. I also have been coughing up a storm to the point where my chest hurts. My back has been hurting a bit, which I think is due to tumor pain- good thing in about a week is my chemo week! I am pretty disappointed that my health has not been as great as it has been lately, but that is okay. My health has its ups and its downs so I will see what happens!

I write my blogs in one sitting and have to recall what I have done so I tend to miss a few things here and there, so forgive me if I leave something out!

Wednesday was spent with Susette and man, that was a productive day! We decided that we had to get our Christmas shopping done in one big swoop. Our first stop was at Pier One and we had such a trip there! There were so many bright colors there and so many things on sale that it was like heaven to me! I would say we spent just slightly less than an hour there and were successful. We then traveled to Styles For Less, which was a few stores down for some personal shopping. Susette had never been to that store so she was overwhelmed by all of the cute and cheap clothes to choose from! She got some amazing red jeggings and a cute shirt. I kind of got a massive score. I got tons of hats to shelter my little, cold, bald head, some bralettes (basically to wear with my tank tops that are see-through), a vest that looks like a rose in a cool way, a pair of floral leggings, a pair of yoga pants, some Vegas jewelry, and some tops that are perfect for Vegas! I am so excited for the outfits that I have planned for the trip- one of the reasons why I was extra-concerned about being sick because of my plans for Vegas. So after our eventful trip in that store, we went to Tuesday Morning, which was a first for us both. It had a bunch of random knick-knacks and we both found a few little goodies. Then we went to Jamba Juice to refuel before heading to Laguna Creek High School for a wrestling meet. Susette had never been to a wrestling meet and was so excited for it. I got to say hi to my coaches and catch up, as well as see Troy, Tyler, Rajiv, Sean, Thomas, and Herman. Susette and I were talking about the nasty smell that just comes with wrestling- no matter what you do, wrestlers just smell a certain way after practice. Then, DeAngela walked into the gym and I jogged over to see her and she finally noticed me. We hugged and then we sat back down with Susette to watch all of the matches. Although Laguna did not win the meet, I was thoroughly entertained the whole time and saw one really good match! Susette had to go home so at about 8:30pm DeAngela and I went to dinner at Chevy’s so we could catch up- plus I had a hankering for Mexican food. We had some good laughs and good food before we both decided it was time to sleep.

Thursday and Friday were mostly spent at home other than going to the hospital on Friday for being sick. On Saturday, I was supposed to bartend for my babysitting coop for their annual Christmas party, but I was just not feeling well and I did not want to get anyone sick. I was so bummed because I was prepared to make cool drinks for the whole party but I just could not risk it. Instead, my dad came over and we watched movies. That is our thing, we always watch movies together because he can handle scary movies and gory films, whereas my mom gets nightmares from some of my horror flicks.

On Sunday, I went sailing. I had set my alarm for 8:30am so that I could be up and about for long enough for my steroids and pain pills to kick in so I would feel good, considering that every morning I wake up feeling horrible and as the day goes on (or about 30 minutes into the day) I start to feel better because of my meds. Unfortunately, my volume on my phone was not loud enough over my three fans and I did not wake up at 8:30. Instead, my mom came into my room and woke me up at 9. Luckily that was still enough time for me to hustle and get ready and leave. I also had help from my mom, who packed a few snacks for myself. I picked up Job and then we both drove to meet Susette and her dad at her house. Susette’s dad owns two sailboats and sails often, so I was super stoked for my first time sailing. It was Job’s first sailing experience as well, so he was excited as well. Susette was thrilled to be able to offer this experience to me and to spend time with Job and me. We all stopped by Quiznos to get sandwiches for our trip, and I have to say, my sandwich was extremely good- it was my first time and definitely not my last at this place. Oh, I forgot to mention, Susette brought her dog, Cooper, along with us. He is an excellent sailing dog as Susette’s dad has taken him numerous times, you could say that Cooper is a pro when it comes to knowing the drill. It took Susette’s dad about twenty minutes to set up the 50 foot sailboat to make it ready for us to go out, so Job, Susette, and I went exploring around the dock to look at all of the sailboats. Some were dinky, and others were just fantastic. You could live on quite a few of them! So we all got on the boat and were handed life jackets. These ones were inflatable life jackets that you had to pull a string so the life jacket would float. Well, Job’s jacket was one that had a sensor that when touched by water, automatically inflated. He joked about it because he was the only one who couldn’t swim. I was so prepared for cold weather and for the icy wind, but where I sat on the boat there was shelter from the wind. I was wearing just my tank top for the longest time- along with plenty of sunscreen of course. It wasn’t until after we ate our sandwiches down below that I noticed how cold it was outside- that and I was in a different spot from before. I also noticed that I got a little sea sick when I was down in the bottom of the boat, but when I was on deck my stomach was fine. You could say that I made the transition back to the deck really fast and felt better immediately. Soon after I got my sweatshirt, I went back to my spot that blocked the wind and was not freezing. We all had such a great day and talked a lot, and I got some sunshine! I needed that, I have been cooped up indoors for way too long. I also learned a bit about sailing and the different kinds of sails there were and what they did. It was nice seeing how much Susette’s dad enjoyed sailing and that he was happy to see his daughter interact with her friends. Nothing was ever awkward! Oh, and I have to mention, that the sailboat was rigged to steer itself when in the sailing mode (engine off). It was pretty much life an autopilot and it self-adjusted itself to capture the wind coming in from different directions. This made life so much easier for us, so we could all sit down and chat without having to worry about running into anything. Susette also helped us steer in the beginning and in the end when the engine was on, and she did a great job! It was amazing to see Susette’s dad put the sailboat back into its spot- it was all in one smooth move. I was surprised because boats are incredibly difficult to “park” because of the water. So after we left the boat behind and got back to Susette’s house and I dropped off Job, I went back home and rested up because we were going to have a little kickback at Job’s house later. Susette came to my house at around 8:30pm and we left for Job’s at about 9pm, with my specialty beers in hand so that I could try them and then have other people finish them for me. I am not a beer person so a sip is more than enough for me! The group of us: DeAngela, Susette, Job, Amanda, Abe, and Job’s brother, played Apples to Apples. I won very quickly because I somehow got the perfect cards. I then went to the couch and turned my attention to the movie that was playing, Red 2. Oh, and before we watched Hot Rod, which was kind of cute and ridiculous. Everyone else continued on playing Apples to Apples, but I was enjoying my movie. Susette was not sure if I was bored and wanted to leave, but I assured her that I was just into my movie (which I was)! At around 1am we left Job’s house and stopped by Jack in the Box to get some food and then went back to my house. We stayed up for about another hour before going to bed. Susette warned me that she would probably be gone by the time I was awake. She actually ended up leaving at around 6:45am because of her sleep schedule. She is a morning person and is always up and about early, she is the type who studies in the morning instead of staying up late and pulling all-nighters.

I cannot say that any of the rest of the week has been productive- I have just been laying on the couch trying to recover from whatever illness that I have. Today, Christmas day, I watched movies with my dad while my mom and brother went to visit my great grandpa. I decided it would be best not to risk getting everyone else sick and exhausting myself before my big Vegas trip on Friday. I wish I could have seen everyone on this holiday, but that was not the case. My family just kind of goes with the flow, it just comes with the territory of my cancer. I have to say that I am just glad that I am alive to see this Christmas. It could be way worse, and I am at home with my family during this day instead of being in the hospital, as much as I love my nurses.

I know that with the season comes great joy, but for some it brings heartbreak and depression. Some families are without certain family members and some spend their holidays alone. However, I would like to say that no one is ever truly alone- someone always has you in their heart. No matter how many bridges you have burned, how alone and hopeless you feel, someone cares about you. It does not matter if you think that nobody cares about you- because I guarantee that somewhere out there is absolutely crazy about you. Now it might be the crazy cat lady next door, your animals, your coworkers- someone loves you and carries you in their hearts! There is always someone who sees the good in yourself that maybe you do not see, but they are there. Just remember that you are a fantastic person who has people who cares about you and put a smile on your face this season. I know that having cold weather probably makes it more difficult and that depression is worse in winter (as well as there is seasonal depression) but having a smile on makes getting through each day easier. Just smiling, humming, singing, whatever you do that makes yourself happy- do it! It will make a big difference, trust me, I am not a happy camper when it comes to cold weather because I am a summer girl and my body aches so much during the winter. Sunshine is always my best friend! So look at pictures of amazing places and just be happy and smile!

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http://www.childrenscancer.org/

http://www.stbaldricks.org/

http://ewings-sarcoma.org.uk/

http://www.sunbeamfoundation.org/cms/index.php

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email: shashimi1992@yahoo.com

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Thanks so much for reading, as always! Please spread childhood cancer awareness!

-Lauren McCullough