2 min read
At a time of excitement and freedom for most college freshman, Lauren Wagner found herself encountering something much different - a diagnosis of Hodgkin's Lymphoma - the most common form of cancer found in young adults. Determined to finish her first semester without interruption, Lauren moved home in December to begin treatment. The move meant saying goodbye to her college and friends, and hello to a scary new world of uncertainty. How would this impact her education? Her future? Would she even survive?
Facing my diagnosis really forced me to face my life.”
Lauren spent the next six months fighting depression from her mom’s couch. She recalls the season as “the most isolating and empowering” of her life -- because right there in the middle of feeling weak, sick, lonely, and scared, Lauren found unexpected hope and empowerment. Maybe her cancer journey could eventually have a positive impact on someone else. It wouldn’t be long before Lauren would know for sure. After six rounds of chemotherapy, Lauren was declared “in remission”.
Today, Lauren’s life is about helping others live theirs. She became president of her school’s American Cancer Society club during her senior year and went on to work for them after graduation. She now works for the March of Dimes and is passionate about volunteering wherever there’s a need. Lauren has always cared about helping people but now she’s actively working to make the world better. “I was a nursing major before cancer, but while I was in treatment, I changed my major to social work, because I loved what my social worker did for me. I want to keep climbing professionally and helping as many people as possible, wherever that leads.”
I faced death and came out with a story to tell."
Lauren grapples daily with the tension of feeling gratitude for a second lease on life while battling a level of frustration with her post-cancer body. “I wasn’t prepared for weight gain during treatment.” She was exceedingly hungry from steroids and too exhausted to exercise.
“It’s all about perspective. It was hard to go through that time of feeling completely powerless - and I obviously still have my moments - but you know what? I’ve been through so much, and I’m still here. I faced death and came out with a story to tell. I can help empower others to share their story - because we are all going through something.” Lauren’s words are a strong reminder that just because insecurity tries to creep up, it doesn’t have the last word -- and it doesn’t have to limit you from pursuing your dreams.
At the end of the day, Lauren sees her diagnosis, struggle and recovery as an opportunity to open up and put good out into the world. “I love the quote from Mother Teresa that says, ‘What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway… The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway…’
...That’s the universe I want to live in.”