Lauren’s Celebration of Life Video

Lauren’s celebration of life was held February 22, 2014 at Laguna Creek High School, her alma mater.  The school celebrated her life with the choir singing songs, the swim team helping to greet guests, the color guard presenting the flag, ASB setting up the gym and multi-purpose room, and the activities director and principal organizing and attending the entire event.  Lauren would have been so honored.  The attached video was made by the Laguna Creek High School Video Club.  Special thanks to Nicole Skinner, Class of 2014, who made the film possible.

For those who were unable to attend Lauren’s service, please click on the link to hear the beautiful things that were said about Lauren’s life and fighting spirit.  We thank all who sent caring messages of support for the family.

Relay For Life San Lorenzo, CA

I want to invite you to please come join in the fun and listen to music at The Relay for Life event to be held at the Arroyo High school track (Grant Avenue, San Lorenzo) beginning Saturday, August 9th 9:00 am until Sunday, Aug 10th 8:00 am (closing ceremony) for the American Cancer Society. Come whenever you can and stay as long as you would like, but please bring some donation money so you can participate in the many games and activities or to buy special trinkets or food presented by the 15 teams in the Relay. All proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.

My team named thenotdyinggirl came together to address Pediatric Cancer, which is an unfinished item on the bucket list of my niece, Lauren McCullough. The name is from her blog in which she narrates her experience of getting the most out of her life while fighting Ewing’s Sarcoma.
For more information, or to donate to the team:

Our team will sponsor the “swim lap” at 5:00 pm. Relay participants will don pool gear and “swim” the lap around the track. Don’t miss the very special Luminaria Ceremony at 9:00 pm which will include a perspective offered by my sister Deanne, Mom of Lauren, and my performance of the song I wrote for all parents, but especially for Deanne, called “Let You Go”. This is my first Relay, but I have heard they are very inspirational and fun.

If you are interested in music here are the bands that will play through out the day: The Fossil Farm Band at 10:00 am, The Standing Still Band at 3:00 pm, Hudson Street Band at 6:00 pm, and Bayfire at 7:30 pm

If you can not come, but wish to make a donation, this is the link to my page:

Thank you for helping to fight cancer!
Catherine Kavasch

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.


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.


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:

Tribute Video:

LCHS Anti-bullying Assembly:

Bay Area Article:


DVC Lacrosse Article:

DVC Paper:



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.



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.


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.


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:|utmccn=(referral)|utmcmd=referral|utmcct=/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLCY14National&__utmv=-&__utmk=155796792


KCRA Update:

Insight with Beth Ruyak:

 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:

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.


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:

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