GAC_Lauren_headshotLauren Addy is from West Columbia, South Carolina. She became involved with colorectal cancer advocacy and awareness after her mother’s diagnosis of stage III colon cancer in May 2000. She has been a member of many committees and local advocacy groups for 15 years and her passion for advocacy and research lead to her career as a registered nurse. She attended Call-on Congress for the first time in 2015 and is serving her first term as a member of the Grassroots Action Committee (GAC).

NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT

May 19, 2000 – the last day of third grade. A day that was to be filled with parties, candy and over-caffeinated eight and nine year olds. Just as planned, my dad arrived on time to help with our end-of-year luau party. I knew my mom wasn’t going to be able to attend because she was having a test to see what was wrong with her stomach. It wasn’t anything major, simply minor bleeding in her stool. The doctor said he would do the test and then my mom and dad would go on to relax in Jamaica as planned. Nothing to worry about, he said. Probably just an ulcer.

EXPLAINING CANCER TO AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD

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Lauren and other members of the GAC

That’s where the normalcy stopped. I later learned the strange test mom was having was a colonoscopy, during which my mother – at 38 years old – was diagnosed with colon cancer. My mom and dad had to sit down their eight and thirteen-year-old children to explain to us what a colon is and how my mom had developed cancer in hers.

How do you even begin to explain cancer to a child? As an eight-year-old coming off of a sugar high from my end-of-year party, I had many questions. “When are you going to start your medicines? Are you still going to Jamaica? Can we go out on the lake this weekend? This isn’t a big deal…is it?”

MAINTAINING A SENSE OF NORMALCY

My parents did everything in their power to keep as much of a normal life for my brother and me as they could. My mom had to wait until June 19, an entire month after diagnosis, to have surgery. While waiting for anemia to resolve and regaining her strength, my mom knew she had cancer that could potentially be growing and spreading throughout her body. And she had no control over it.

After the surgery, the doctors confirmed that my mom had stage III colon cancer and would require chemotherapy, with the hopes of curing her of the disease. The doctors told us that my mom had a 5% chance of surviving five years. They increased that to a 7% chance for the fight they knew she would put in for her family.

FINDING MY CALLING

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Lauren and her mom, Wanda, at the 2015 Call-on Congress

Once my mom returned home from the hospital I did not leave her side often, and when I did it wasn’t for long. I spent my summer tending to my mom’s surgical wound and attending chemotherapy treatments with her. I would borrow a nurse’s clipboard to use as a tray to pass out drinks and snacks to my mom and other patients receiving chemotherapy alongside her. Through her care and treatment I vowed to myself that one day I would be a nurse to return a small favor to the doctors and nurses who treated my mom.

Fast forward to 2015. I lived out my dream of graduating as a registered nurse, a dream I followed since I was eight years old at my mother’s bedside, cleaning her wound and assisting in her care. My mom is now a 15-year survivor. I am now a registered nurse.

CHILDREN ARE SURVIVORS, TOO

I am thankful for all the families and friends who were a major support system for our family during my mom’s diagnosis, surgery and treatment. However, I do wish there had been a support system for children whose parents were patients or survivors – it was something I needed and it’s the reason I’m so passionate about the junior advocate program at Call-on Congress. Giving children of survivors the chance to meet each other and discuss what they’ve experienced is invaluable; after all, they’re survivors, too.

My hope is that the junior advocate program will continue to grow and reach these children who may not have a similar support system at home. I hope all survivors will give their children the opportunity by attending Call-on Congress and bringing them.

JOIN FIGHT CRC

If you’ve been impacted by colorectal cancer, we need you! Join us and use your experience, your story and your voice to create real change. Get started by signing up. Next, see all the ways you can do something about this disease and take steps to get connected with our community. Come fight with us.

And be sure to save-the-date and sign up for Call-on Congress. Early bird discount ends Jan. 1!

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2 comments on “Finding My Calling”

  1. 1
    Maria Santiago on November 20, 2015

    Congrats Lauren in becoming a nurse. Congrats to your mother for being a 15 year survivor. I am a 3 year survivor of colon cancer. I had stage 2 and I like your mother had surgery and 7 months of chemo. I stay positive. I have a niece who I adopted when she was 11 months old and now she is 14 years. She wants to be a prenatal nurse. I believe that you must be honest with your children and that is why I talked with my daughter Sam and told her what was going on with me. I know that she was scared. but I never allowed her to see me sick and I did take her with me sometimes when I went for chemo. She was happy like you to be with me at the treatment center. I informed her school what was happening at home and to please advise me if they saw any changes in her. My daughter is an honor student and her grades never went down. But I kept her informed of what was going on with me. I have always been honest to her and I honestly believe that it is the right thing to do. It is a great idea for the Junior Advocate Program which will benefit a lot of children. Thank you for everything that you are doing.
    Keep doing what you are doing. Thank you for caring so much. God bless you and your family. Happy Holidays….

  2. 2
    Ros Squirewell on November 19, 2015

    Congratulations, Lauren. So proud of you and your fight to be right there with your Mom!
    Thanks for making a difference!

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