My Cancer Journey

by Dawn Raub | August 31st, 2017

Written by Lauryn Laskowski

On December 24th I sat on the couch and had a sharp pain in my lower right abdomen area. I have experienced it before so I just took ibuprofen and used a heating pad and it went away. In the middle of the night, the pain came back. I told my mom but ended up falling back asleep. In the morning, I woke up fine and had no pain. I opened my stocking and went to the other room where our Christmas tree was and I sat up against the wall and the pain came back, but this time much worse. I started puking and crying because it hurt so bad. It was excruciating. My parents said lets go to the hospital.

When we arrived at the hospital, I started to puke blood, because I hadn’t eaten anything yet. We got called back to a room and that’s where I got hooked up to an IV right away with fluids. I got an ultrasound to see what was going on. They said everything looked fine in my woman parts. A bit later they decided they would do a CT scan. If I had appendicitis, which we thought, it would show it. Also, it had better results because it can see more into my body. The CT scan showed that I had a 7.5 cm mass on my right ovary wrapped around twice. A mass is a tumor. I had to be rushed back to the ultrasound room to evaluate it again. They said I have good blood flow and the next thing you know doctors keep coming in and out of my room, my parents are signing off on everything, and then I’m getting prepped for an emergency surgery. I was 12 at the time and had no idea what was going on. Just moving from floor to floor, all around the hospital. I had a surgery that took 4 hours that was only supposed to take 2, but they were making sure they got everything. I had my right ovary removed along with my fallopian tube. Who would have thought cancer? A 12 year old girl with ovarian cancer. It was that day I joined the 3% in the world and my fight began. I had a somewhat understanding what was going on but all the medicines made me out of it.

The day my stage was confirmed it was Wednesday, December 30th, it was the first time I had laid in my bed, it still hurt really bad but that was a sign I was healing good. Then my mom came in and said its stage 2. The next thing I did was play Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin. Obviously I was upset, but I knew God had a plan, you can’t be scared especially for something like cancer (which is very scary). My control went to God. I knew if it was his plan, it happened for a reason. I also knew I wasn’t going to lose to cancer. I had to be strong, which I had always been. I was still confused on everything about cancer and was wondering, well, how do you fight cancer?

But sure enough, I did it. It took faith, hope, love and strength.

The next thing I was going to Roswell. I had heard of it before but never knew what or where it was. I met with the doctors December 31st, 2015. My first treatment made me so sick I got my own room. The first chemo is the worst feeling you ever want to feel. My Gram said that she would drop dimes from Heaven and we found a few at my first chemo treatment. Sometimes I get sad that I never got to meet her, but she gives me the motivation and encouragement because she had a strong faithful fight. It makes me feel better when I see dimes because even though she’s still in Heaven, she’s still with me.

I was so scared about my hair falling out. For a while I didn’t think it was going to fall out. Then it started to get all over my clothes, pillows and I literally could rip out chunks. I thought that was so cool that I could just pull it out. But when my hair was completely out, I learned bald is really beautiful! No matter what I was going through I would still walk in smiling ready to my 8+ hour treatment. I was hooked up to IV fluids because chemo can damage your kidneys. The other side effects of chemo medicine I took are lung damage (I can never scuba dive or if I ever needed surgery I could not handle my oxygen turned up all the way), and hearing loss (which they say my ears are already a little damaged). For my treatments we created an angel board. We wrote ‘The God of Angel Armies is Always by My Side Whom Shall I Fear?’ I started collecting angel pins. They could be new, old, something that just has meaning. The words are lyrics from the song.

Through my cancer journey, hearts became my symbol. I would see them everywhere. I even had a temporary heart tattoo. Through my fight, I definitely grew closer to God. On St. Patrick’s Day, I finished. I did it! “I survived what was supposed to kill me, so I straightened by crown and walked away like a boss.”

From here we move to check-ups, scans and blood work. All my scans were clear. Just because you are done with cancer treatments doesn’t mean that you are done with the cancer world, which most people think you are. Cancer doesn’t have to be your whole life, but every time you get a pain, fear pops up in your head and there’s anxiety when you have to go for your scans, and the long term side effects that come with all the toxins that get put into your body. Chemo is supposed to save your life, yet it destroys your body. I have neuropathy in my feet that affects me every day.

Through my cancer journey I learned you have to have a lot of faith, trust and patience. You learn all about cancer. You have more knowledge than most people. You learn only 4% of funding goes to cancer research for pediatric cancer because it’s rare or as my doctor says you had a ‘weird’ tumor. Even though you don’t have hair you are still beautiful because you are you. It doesn’t matter all the birthmarks on your head, scars all over your body, etc. because that’s what makes you YOU. But most importantly you realize how strong you are. God chooses his strongest warriors to fight the big battles.

Through this I learned I AM STRONG. I AM DETERMINED. I AM A WARRIOR. I AM A FIGHTER. I AM CANCER FREE!

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that 1 in 285 children are diagnosed with cancer? (Source: cancer.org) There needs to be more funding for more research and cures for childhood cancers. Please consider donating to help find better treatments for children, and to organizations that help comfort children and their families during their difficult journey:

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Kaely’s Kindness (supports teenage girls based in WNY)

Children’s Oncology Group Foundation