Order amid Chaos

Lauren Kotran
A Detailed Story

We will never forget the day our daughter Lauren was diagnosed with neuroblastoma cancer at the age of 6 months. Within one day's time a lump the size of a golf ball had formed on her back and by the time she was diagnosed with cancer, she was paralyzed from the waist down. Decisions needed to be made immediately and without time for research. We had to take the doctor's, surgeon's, and oncologist's suggestions and make a decision. The thought of Lauren never being able to crawl, walk or play with her older brother or sister was horrifying. But then the reality sunk in, we could lose her altogether if something wasn't done that night, it was a fight for her life. Within hours she was injected with steroids and by morning she had her first round of chemotherapy. Given the spinal cord involvement and the large size of the tumor, her stomach, kidneys, heart and other organs were being compressed against her small body, the tumor was inoperable and any surgery would have to wait. We were told treatment would last at least a year, with Lauren being in the hospital for weeks at a time. We couldn't leave a 6 month old baby in the hospital to face this alone, but we also couldn't leave our 3 1/2 year old daughter, Ashley, or 4 1/2 year old son, Joseph, home alone either. More decisions had to be made. With the help of our co-workers, family and friends, Dad stayed at home while Mom, the one with the health insurance, stayed at work. It broke her heart not to be with her baby when she needed her most. And so, our family's journey began.

Most times it felt unbearably dark and lonely. All of us, going in our separate directions, fulfilling our duties and passing each other in the night. One of us in the hospital and the other at home, roles reversed and 3 year old children learning about C A T scans and M R I's. Along with chemotherapy, Lauren was immediately started on an extensive physical therapy regiment. Our family, including Lauren's older brother and sister, began moving and stretching Lauren's legs after every diaper change, along with three, forty five minute sessions each day. It was then when we got the first glimpse into Lauren and our family's spirit. Joseph and Ashley were proud they were helping their younger sister and Lauren, even in her weakened condition, loved to "play' with them. As time and treatments went on, especially through the worst of it, working as a family gave us a sense of pride and took our minds off the chaos and uncertainty Lauren's cancer brought to us. Were it not for the love and support of family, friends and especially Lauren's spirit and courage, we would surely have crumbled as a family. So this is not just the depressing story of a little girl and her family, it is a celebration of life. Lauren's determination and spirit has not only brought her this far, but has kept her family going, through the worst of times. She has taught her family and friends to realize the struggle of life, even at its darkest moments is worth living, and joy can be found.

We are very fortunate that Lauren continues to improve. The doctors held out little or no hope of her ever moving or having feeling in her legs. As the tumor shrunk and recovery from neuroblastoma brightened, she also started to regain movement in her legs. The many months of hard work and therapy were paying off and boosted the morale of the whole family. Joseph and Ashley now knew they were really helping Lauren, they could see it. Family, friends and co-workers continued their support, making dinners, holding fund raisers for medical and household bills and giving spiritual and emotional support. This let us keep our focus on Lauren and continue her therapy. Lauren's spirit and determination grew as she did and she continued to astound her doctors. Lauren survived her operation to remove the remaining tumor with the same determination and spirit which sustained her throughout treatment. Lauren now has a favorable prognosis with the doctors being cautiously optimistic over the next five years.

Since her operation and her last round of chemotherapy, she continues her battle against cancer and paralysis, and is improving. She is tested for neuroblastoma every six months. Wearing electrodes at night for muscle stimulation, braces during the day and therapy three times a week along with daily stretching at home, Lauren amazingly remains a bundle of energy and determination, an inspiration to her family and friends. With hurdles and uncertainties ahead of her, we know Lauren will rise to meet any challenge.

We pray for a long and bright future for you, Lauren.
We love you very much.

We would like to thank the many, many people who have helped our family along the way but never got the chance to tell you personally. You are gifts from God and you will never know how you truly lifted our spirits and let Lauren soar.

Thank you