Whatever fourth grader Lauren Cunningham does – she figures out a way to make it fun. Leukemia is no exception. The disease has taken away her strength, her hair, and her freedom – but has done little to diminish her boundless spirit and determination to beat cancer and help other sick kids.
At Nationwide Children’s Hospital, physicians discovered that Lauren had so many leukemia cells in her blood that she was at risk of kidney and lung failure if she did not receive treatment quickly. In order to receive this treatment safely, she had to be put on a ventilator and placed in a medically induced coma for several days. “They said ninety percent of her white blood cells were leukemia cells, that she was very sick and might not make it,” says mother Mariah. “It was such a helpless feeling, but we were immediately supported by a team of doctors, nurses, clergy, social workers, therapists – everyone was totally focused on helping Lauren and helping us. Without a doubt, the doctors at Nationwide Children’s saved Lauren’s life that day.”
Never one to shy away from a moment to talk to people, Lauren created video diaries to chronicle what it’s like to be a ten year-old with cancer. What it’s like to take multiple medications, to shave her head when there’s not enough hair left, to throw up in the car on the way to an appointment, to curl up whimpering in a soft pink blanket because she feels so sick. On camera, she is matter-of-fact, cheerful. She can also look straight in the lens and unabashedly say, “Donate so that kids like me can get treatment. So that kids like me don’t die.”