Madeline Lauener is a multi-time Survivor Education Bursary Award recipient, which is one of our many programs we proudly raise funds for. This fund supports on average 30 – 40 amazing young adults every year who have been affected by childhood cancer or a blood disorder and who are wanting to advance their knowledge, and job skills for future career paths. This program represents the part of our mission that is to support these families with quality of life programs not just during but also beyond their diagnosis and treatments.
Here is Madeline’s story that truly goes full circle, bringing it right back to where it all started for her.
Growing up, I had a very normal life; a loving family, plenty of friends, and I was quite active in my school, and the community. However, in 2011 my life drastically changed, and ultimately affected the entire course of my future pursuits and attributed to the person I am today. At the age of 12, I quickly became very sick. I began to develop swollen lymph nodes, and a persisting high fever. After weeks of my symptoms progressing and my family doctor being unsure as to the cause of my illness, I took the day off school, and my parents took me to BC Children’s hospital for further testing. I didn’t know at the time, but that was the last day I would attend elementary school. The doctor at BC Children’s hospital admitted me, and the next few weeks consisted of many tests and visits from various specialties, as I grew sicker and weaker, developing anorexia, making it difficult for me to walk or even stand. A few weeks later, the oncologist brought my parents and I into a family meeting room, and informed us that I had stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My parents and I were scared, and feeling high stress, as I had three siblings at home, one of them being special needs, and requiring extra attention. Further, my mom hadn’t been to work since I was admitted in the hospital, and wouldn’t be back for a few years, until I was well again. My dad also took a few months off of work to care for my sisters, while my mom was at the hospital with me. My diagnosis was devastating news for my family and I for many reasons, though we were determined to stay positive, and overcome this obstacle together.
Throughout my grade eight year, I was treated with chemotherapy as an outpatient. Unfortunately, within one month of finishing my chemotherapy treatments the cancer had relapsed. This second time I was treated with a stem cell transplant, requiring mega doses of chemotherapy and full body radiation. I received treatment and recovered in an isolation room for multiple months. The side effects were severe, and the isolation from my friends and family was emotionally taxing. Fortunately, I began to recover from the transplant as my immune system regenerated, and the treatment was ultimately successful.
BC Children’s hospital was amazing throughout my entire treatment and follow-up journey. The doctors and nurses were always so kind, caring, and considerate, making us feel comfortable and optimistic throughout the experience. The child life program also had a really large impact on me as this was a place that I was able to meet other young adults who were currently experiencing, or had previously experienced a cancer diagnosis, and understood the challenges that I was facing. Additionally, the services offered and accommodated to my family and I were all I could have hoped for. For instance, Balding for Dollars provided me with a wig, making me feel much more comfortable returning to school and going out in public. They also have supported my schooling and future endeavors through their bursary program. I truly believe the support of all these people and services have had a massive impact on how my life has turned out thus far.
Fast forward eight years, and I am now 22 years old and have been in remission from my cancer for 8 years. I have completed my Bachelor of Science with distinction from SFU, majoring in health sciences, and just begun my Master of Science in pathology and laboratory medicine at UBC, where I’m completing research in the field of childhood cancer at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute. After my master’s degree, I plan to attend medical school, and specialize in pediatric oncology, working in both a research and clinical setting.
I am extremely grateful for all that have contributed a significant amount of time, work, energy, or funds towards cancer research, care, and support. Due to these generous efforts I have been able to move forward in my life, and be in a state of health that has allowed me to live out the goals I dreamed of from my hospital bed 10 years ago.
On behalf of myself, my family, and other cancer patients, survivors, and families, I want to thank you all for your efforts, and encourage you to continue joining us in this fight against cancer as you are all making huge differences in the lives of children and their future.