Lauren 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
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
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.
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