OUR STORY

Thriver Spotlight: Meet Our Bud, Lauren

Category:

Community

DURATION:

3 MIN

SUBCATEGORIES:

Relationships

Support

Lauren is a stay-at-home toddler mom, breast cancer survivor, and budding entrepreneur in Chicago. Her story is one of resilience, confusion, and family planning during a stressful season.

ICYMI: we went live on Instagram with Lauren in May as part of our Thriver Thursday series — check out the convo here!

Lauren’s Cancer Story

In September of 2014, Lauren found a lump on her right breast after a yoga class. She didn’t think cancer would happen to her as a healthy 29-year-old, but she got checked out anyway. 

In February 2015, she was diagnosed with stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer; estrogen, progesterone, and HER-2 positive. A genetic predisposition test revealed a positive BRCA gene linking her cancer to her grandmother and aunt. 

Treatment moved in quickly for Lauren, but fertility was top of mind. Before starting chemo, she went through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to preserve her eggs.  

The following 12 months would be exhausting, with six intense chemotherapy treatments and a full year of Herceptin treatments. She also underwent a bilateral prophylactic skin-sparing mastectomy, reconstruction surgery, and 30 rounds of radiation. Lauren entered into remission in March 2016.

The Toll of Survivorship

Chemo was over, but survivorship was a whole new challenge that was arguably the hardest. 

“Now what? What do I do to keep it from coming back and support myself?” 

Her doctor’s advice was to keep life as low-stress as possible. But for someone living with anxiety, this was almost comical. Lauren made changes with work, diet, and health, though she felt alone in her new path forward. “You could put on a mask and use humor, but I felt so dark and unsupported,” she said.

Sometimes the “after” is where we need the most love.

Let’s get to know her better! 

Fun Facts

Three things people might not know about Lauren:

  1. She plays the electric guitar. 

  2. She is SCUBA certified.

  3. She was on Windy City Live.

What brings her joy:

  • Vacationing with family, floating in the waves or pool

  • Playing guitar with a hot tea or glass of wine

  • Trying something new and adventurous

  • Being creative and giving back to others

Wellness rituals: 

  • Yoga

  • Pilates

  • Hike or walk around the city

  • Bubble baths (with a candle and book!)

  • Listening to music or playing piano and guitar

  • Being in (or on) water

  • Acupuncture

Lauren’s Support

Lauren cherishes some small gifts and gestures from family and friends, like pillows, activities, meals, and candy.

“Two friends made a trip on a good chemo weekend to spend time with me. I did receive flowers and balloons that were nice to brighten up the room where I spent most of my days. Small gestures can bring such support!”

Lauren’s most immense gratitude is for her husband, who stuck by her side through the highs and lows. She is thankful for her supportive medical team, including Dr. Mellot, Dr. Bethke, Dr. Fine, Dr. Strauss, Dr. Flaum, and nurse Somia who made every chemo day a little brighter. 

Adventures with First Descents and mindfulness camping with True North Treks were life-changing experiences for Lauren after finishing chemo. “These organizations introduced me to some of the most amazing and inspirational individuals, as well as helped me to grow and experience things I've never done before.”

Lauren’s advice for supporting someone going through or recovering from cancer treatment: “Remember that treatment doesn’t end at chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation. Each part of treatment is painful, exhausting, and emotional. Support during each part, especially in survivorship, is important!”

Lauren’s Silver Lining

“I didn’t really know who I was before cancer, and now I was being told I was sick and going to lose my hair, breasts, and the ability to deliver a child,” she said. “Cancer allowed me to figure out who I am.”

Lauren stays busy as a board member of BOARD39 at Northwestern Memorial and the Associate Board of Share Our Spare. She’s also a mentor with Bright Pink and Imerman Angels. Lauren runs Liv & Let, an information hub and gift service for those affected by breast cancer.

You can follow her at @livandlet.ttbc.

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