Attack on Cancer!

As many of you know, I opted and qualified to go through yet another hard round of ICE chemo. I want to hurt my tumors and make them as mad as possible to make them shrink and to just die. I figure that with hardcore chemo, the tumors will hardly be having a vacation in my body. As sick as chemo makes me feel, I know that in the long run it is so worth the countless hours spent on the bathroom floor to keep my head near the toilet. No matter how tired chemo gets me or how draining it is on me both mentally and physically, the results are worth it. As long as these tumors are unhappy with me getting sick, then I can deal with it. The cancer cells aren’t supposed to be in me to begin with, so I think of them as an unwanted guest whom I am trying to kick out as quickly as possible.Cancer is NOT a part of me, it is a part of my daily existence but I will not acknowledge it as being a part of me.

On Saturday, November 23rd the Diablo Valley College lacrosse team held a benefit game against Santa Rosa Junior College in order to raise awareness for childhood cancer and of course, to back up their fellow Viking. I would like to start off by thanking everyone who participated in that because it truly moved me. All of these strangers were taking the time and energy out of their day (and Saturday night) to support me. I was in shock that this event could be all perfectly planned in just a few weeks. That kind of reminded me of the wedding, but this was even more impromptu so I was scared, but excited.

The whole Diablo Valley College football stadium was covered in yellow streamers, balloons, posters- all representing Sarcomas. The American Cancer Society was represented there too, as that is where all of the profit from the game would go to. I got kind of an overwhelming feeling inside, just in awe I guess you could say. All of these people were here to support me (and of course watch the lacrosse game) and I just felt an awesome sense of community that I have never felt before. When I arrived (a little late for my appointment with the photographer because Thor 2 had just came out and my swim buds Blake, Dom, and Steven took me there and to yummy sushi!) I was greeted by so many people who knew about me and my little situation, I felt like a celebrity. I met up with the photographer so I showed off my little bald head which had been concealed by a cute, wool hat. If I am supposed to be sharing awareness of what it is like for me (and possibly other young adults) to go cancer, then there was no reason for me to hide my head, even though it needs a tan. After taking some quick pictures with the Contra Costa Times photographer, I was whisked away to the middle of the field and in front of a microphone. I had a good feeling that I would be speaking ahead of time, so I had practiced what points I needed to get across rather than have notecards to read off of. I got introduced to the referees of the lacrosse game as well as all of the coaches on either side, then it was my turn for the floor. I said something along the lines that “Cancer does not discriminate based on age, race, social class, etc” and “if we talk about pediatric cancer more often, no matter how uncomfortable, that can lead to more funding to the research that needs to be done on childhood cancers of all sorts.” I also threw in a little joke about being bald and talked about my blog. I also told the audience why athletics are such an important part in my life and how I am sure that I would not be here today if I had not worked so hard in sports.

Once I was done talking, Terry Armstrong, the club adviser, kept me right near the microphone as one of the captains from Diablo Valley College spoke to me. His name is Devon Bahary and he presented me with words of encouragement, support, and gave me three different T-shirts as well as a framed picture of the whole lacrosse team. It was the sweetest thing, that all of these guys are supporting a fellow athlete who they did not know. Bahary was choking back tears when he was speaking to me, so I just felt the power of awareness and the power of being proud of your school. After the speech, I was escorted to the first part of the field where EVERY single lacrosse player, from both teams, introduced themselves to me. It was a lot of “Hi” and “thank you for being here” and “you are an inspiration” and other things along those lines. I would say “Hi” back, “thanks for having me”, and “aw thanks”. We all shook hands, the players in their dirtied up jerseys and baldy Lauren with the #1 DVC lacrosse jersey over a sweater, leggings, and boots. As much as I could just about taste how competitive these two teams were about each other, they all gathered together to meet me. At one point, I thought one of the players was going to give me a hug, and that was not his intention at first, until I said, “Aw I thought I was going to get a hug there for a second!” to which he, of course, turned back around to give me a hug. That was the start to the hug fest! Instead of just shaking hands with the lacrosse players, everyone who was still in line hugged me. That really made my day. They care so much about some girl who they have never met, only heard/read about.

The National Anthem was played live, and I believe right after that I went back to the middle of the field and I was named an honorary captain for the evening. I was stoked, as I have never been an “honorary”, “official”, or any other sort of captain position, even when I had earned it. The DVC lacrosse team decided that based on my effort and about how hard I am fighting this cancer off, that I could be a captain for this benefit game. To be honest, being considered a captain has been on my bucket list for a long while, and I can finally say that I got it. I got the captain spot, even if it was for one night. I did not have to do anything in particular when I was captain, other than shake the other captains’ hands (well I hugged them) and to call for a specific position if the coin landed on tails. It did not, so I just got to leave the field and watch the game.

I must say, I need to watch more lacrosse games! Being a former wrestler myself, I am so into the violent nature and talent needed for the game. For me, lacrosse looks like a mixture between soccer and water polo. The players can hit each other with their lacrosse sticks, run into each other, and just be aggressive. I was amazed by how fast everyone moved along with the fact that they had to carry their sticks with them everywhere they went as well. That game really got my adrenaline pumping, which is always really cool. While Diablo Valley College did win by around 10 points, it was still a great game. No one got too cocky and messed up the whole game, no one gave up- they were always checking each other and making sure that everyone was working hard no matter what the score was. I think that is how sports should be played.

During halftime, I was ushered up into the press box to do an interview. Of course I was game to do an interview, I mean I do have all the time in the world (in a sense) to think about what words I use and what to say. I have always loved debates and speeches, so I knew this would not be difficult because the conversation can never get boring as long as there are plenty of interview questions to rely on. I sat next to the announcer of the game and we shared a microphone that we handed back and forth between each other. We talked about athletics, about me having to deal with cancer, about being a top athlete with cancer, and other such things. I really believe I got the word out that pediatric cancer is here and affects everyone, and that word still needs to go even further. When I was done with the interview, I walked back downstairs and got to meet the DVC women’s basketball team and their coaches. I swear I still can’t get over how many students from different sports are supporting me, I guess being a college athlete automatically makes us all bonded together. We had the Music Industry Club played live (jazz) music during the halftime game (I did not really get to hear it as I was getting interviewed) and right before the 4th quarter commenced a dance team from our school performed. That was about it! The game was really entertaining, everyone was so generous and friendly, everything was perfect! There is nothing more that I could have wanted from the day.

So I am going to flash forward to me being in the hospital! I was admitted at 9AM on Monday to make sure that my chemo would not be starting too late. They were expecting me, so apparently the pharmacists were not put “in the know” to create my chemo, so instead of starting at 1PM, 3PM at the latest, I started at around 7PM. I have to get all of my premeds for chemo to help protect my organs and to make sure that I am hydrated enough to start the chemo. Trust me, I was ready. It was hectic in the 4th floor building for whatever reason, but I still had Coach Brenda and her daughter Emily stop by for an hour or so before they were off to the Roseville Galleria. I absolutely loved our talks, trust me our families have a lot in common and we are into the same sport, so that is an automatic plus whenever hanging out with someone. A little while after they left, my shoulder area- all the way to my elbow and neck hurt like crazy. I have a high pain tolerance and this was unbearable. My pain pills had not been changed from oral to intravenous and there was no order in for delotted (an IV pain med that actually works, also known as hydrocodone). So I had to sit very uncomfortably, icing my shoulder but to no relief. Finally I was given the order and was given my pain meds and was much better. I was really drugged up at that point because I did have a prescription ready for Ativan, I had needed something to help me possibly be in less pain. About thirty minutes after I got my pain medicine, Julie and Katie Rundle came by to say hi to me. I am so comfortable around them, so I did not care that they saw me feeling less than my best. They did not stay for too long, but Tamara and Shelly also stopped by to see how I was doing. They all brought me donuts and a Jamba Juice, so I guess you could say that I am a little bit spoiled.

So today, a family friend of Andrew’s, Michelle Bigelow, came to visit me and to just hang out. She gave me a pedicure while we watched Brave. It is really nice having people to talk to here in the hospital! I mean I love having my parents here, but sometimes I just need to have someone who is kinda new or who I haven’t heard from in a while. Maybe that is just me, but I love a little variety here and there. That way I can tell stories that I know I had not told them and have told other people.

With regards to my health, I am not sure exactly what is going on with me. I wish that I could give really good news, but I can’t. With my weird pain that suddenly attacked my shoulder (which has gone away) to the pain along my side, like right under my left lung. It is also numb, so I have a feeling that something with my nerves are not very happy with me. I can only hope that I can get the results that I want after these next two days of chemo. Put a pain on those tumors and make them leave me alone! I hate not having all of the answers that I strive so hard to find. I am very thankful that I am in the hospital so we can figure out exactly what is wrong with me, well hopefully we can figure it out. Oh, and I have hives on my head, only my head, not face or body, head. This would be from the steroids that I was on for about a week. Can’t wait until it is over!

Oh, and I turn 21 on December 11! So for my birthday weekend, my mom, Kathryn (who is a day younger than I am), her mom, and I are going to Vegas!!! I am not going to get drunk or anything because my stomach is just too sensitive now, however, I will take one shot and sip slowly on a fruity, sweet, drink. I am more into the whole experience of Vegas, mostly the food and the shows. I will be sporting a long, brightly covered wig (probably red or blue) just to add to the whole party element to it!

I will leave you guys now, so remember to have fun, do what makes yourself happy, be productive.

Lauren McCullough

IG: swimchicklauren

FB: laurenmccullough2

Twitter: swimchickLM

6 thoughts on “Attack on Cancer!

  1. Sending love and Thanksgiving greetings. I love your narrative. Gosh I love Las Vegas — enjoy your trip. Love, Roberta Potter at LC

  2. You’re living life young lady! I hope you enjoy your Vegas experience 🙂 and all the adventures and different types of food! BTW, wrestlers are tough cookies, so you keep fighting the good fight.

    From one wrestler to another…take care kiddo!

  3. You should watch this, learn the lesson and do some more research:

    Something that makes you so sick will never help you get well, it will destroy ALL the cells in your body! How can you say you did your research and still believe this load of crap that chemo is helping cancer patients when it is only meant to shrink a tumor by 0.1 inches and at the same time poison your entire body? Your photos are truly heart wrenching, the people who are doing this to you are criminals!
    I wish you all the best, but especially courage and wisdom to get out of the allopathic death-bringing paradigm!

    • This offends me to no end. Chemo and radiation made the tumor in my leg, which was 10in when it was first measured, go away. This is a snappy remark, but you need to do your research next time you try to give me medical advice.

  4. Wow Lauren. I could see why you felt ” irritated” when I saw you on Thanksgiving. I’m so sorry your chemo was not organized and your pain med ( Dilaudid) took so long to get. Hope future admits go better. Have fun in Vegas!

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