Coming up on Thursday, March 16th is the 4th annual St. Baldrick’s fundraiser in Elk Grove. Participants raise money by having their heads shaved, with the money going to help fight pediatric cancer. The event was started in 2014 as a way to honor the life of Lauren McCullough, a graduate of Laguna Creek High School who passed away from cancer in 2014 at the age of 21. The event will be held at BJ’s Restaurant in Elk Grove from 3:30 to 8 pm. If you would like to make a contribution or join Team Lauren Strong, you can https://www.stbaldricks.org/events/Laurenstrong
I had the opportunity to speak to Lauren’s mom Deanne this afternoon and she gave me some background on Lauren. I recalled reading and hearing about Lauren a few years ago. I was not aware of her complete story until today. My wife Sally was diagnosed with cancer almost 18 years ago at the age of 27. Luckily the cancer she had was treatable. Any stories about young people with cancer make me think back to that time when we found out Sally had cancer. It’s honestly not something either of us likes to think about, but we have so much empathy for those that have had to go through this. Honestly it was hard to hear Lauren’s story, but Deanne made it clear that if there was a positive, it was that Lauren wanted to bring awareness to pediatric cancer.
Lauren was a typical teenager, healthy and very active in sports. She loved swimming. While at Laguna Creek High School, she set two records, including one that was 11 years old. She was named “Female Athlete of the Year” during her senior year. After graduating in 2011, she was in Hawaii with her family when she felt some pain in her leg. Upon returning home, she went to the doctor and it was discovered that she had a 10″ long tumor in her leg. She had Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.
She underwent 9 months of chemotherapy and 31 radiation treatments. She had to be hospitalized during some of the treatments because the chemotherapy was so intense that she needed to be watched carefully. She finished her treatments in April 2012.
Lauren was determined to live her life and get back to normal. In August of the 2012, she enrolled at Diablo Valley College along with her brother where she resumed swimming. She made all All America and qualified for the State meet in 2013. She was able to swim in one race, but felt pain in her chest. She went to the doctor to have it checked out and was told the cancer had returned and was in her lung. It was an aggressive form of cancer. She resumed chemotherapy treatments in May of 2013. At that time she also started a blog, “The Not Dying Girl“. Lauren wanted to detail what she was going through and how she felt.
A month later in June she received the prognosis that she only had 6 months to live. Possibly even less. She put together a bucket list of things she wanted to do. She was determined to not just roll over and die. One of the things was she wanted to get married before she died. That’s not easy when you don’t have a boyfriend so she asked a friend if he would “marry” her. It would not be a legal marriage, just something ceremonial. So that was one of the things on her list.