“On July 3rd 2018 my life changed. After 10 days in hospital, I was diagnosed with stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma. Doctors told me I had a tumour on my adrenal gland and the cancer had spread to my bones and bone marrow. I felt frightened and upset about what this meant. The doctor told me my treatment would last for a whole year. I would not be able to go to school and see my friends, I was so sad I didn’t understand how this could happen.”

This is Lauren, a typical 13-year-old who loves reading books and writing stories.

Lauren has already endured extensive treatment to get her into remission – amazingly her latest scans were clear.

But high-risk neuroblastoma is an aggressive and complex cancer to treat. There is a 40-50% chance at diagnosis that a child will not respond completely (refractory) during standard treatment, or relapse after it. If the cancer does come back the survival rate is less than 10%.

That’s why Lauren’s family fundraised with Solving Kids’ Cancer to give her the best chance of living cancer free. They appealed for your help to raise £234,000 for Lauren to access a vaccine in New York that aims to reduce the chances of relapse and thanks to your help met the target in August 2019.

Lauren’s story

Lauren began chemotherapy within days of her diagnosis last year. During the first 80 days she had eight cycles of chemotherapy with extremely tough side-effects. She then had a seven-hour surgery to remove the primary tumour. This was followed by high-dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant involving 21 days in an isolation room. In February 2019, Lauren completed 14 days of radiotherapy.

Over the past seven months of treatment, Lauren has recovered from sepsis, endured numerous blood transfusions, general anaesthetics, nose tube insertions, injections, antibiotics to fight infections and medications for pain relief. She also had severe nerve pain in her foot, which resulted in her using a wheelchair.

Lauren has now started six months of immunotherapy to finish her frontline treatment.

“The treatment has been worse than I ever imagined, I have been really sick most of the time and not been able to eat or even smell food without being ill. When I couldn’t walk I felt very sad and lonely,” says Lauren.

“I am so lucky that I have my wonderful family supporting me through the ups and downs and there have been a lot of downs but I know I will get through this with their help.”

Humour, positivity and Lego

Despite the pain, Lauren has gone through the highs and lows of this tough regime with great humour and positivity. Her parents, Garrett and Mary Clare, along with her sister and two brothers, have supported her every step of the way. With her mobile phone close at hand, she can hear and read first-hand the support from her extended family, friends, neighbours and her community.

Lauren has spent many hours reading and re-reading her favourite Harry Potter books. She describes herself as a “huge Lego fan” and this has helped her to get through the difficult days. “During my intensive treatment I’ve spent hours building thousands of pieces of Lego and at the same time trying to stop my old cat Hero from eating them!” she says.

Lauren’s fundraising campaign

Lauren’s family launched an appeal with Solving Kids’ Cancer to raise £234,000 to potentially give her the best chance of living cancer-free. Your support allowed Lauren to start the Bivalent Vaccine clinical trial at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York in October 2019. They are continuing to raise funds in case she needs further treatment that is not available on the NHS, either to keep the cancer from returning and/or clear the disease if it does come back. 

“Even after 15 months of treatment the outlook is still really poor, statistics show that at Lauren’s age there is a very high chance that the cancer will come back. We want Lauren to enjoy her teenage years and mature into a healthy, happy adult. We believe that this vaccine gives her the best chance of living her life cancer-free.”

How you can help

There are many ways you can help Lauren: by making a personal donation; holding a fundraising event; getting sponsored to take on a challenge; or simply following and sharing Lauren’s story through her Facebook page.

To donate by text, send “LAURENF” followed by any whole amount up to £20 to 70085. This will cost your donation plus your standard network charge. It won’t matter if you leave a space before the number, if you include a ‘£’ sign or whether you use upper or lower case.

You can make a donation via this page. If you’d like help supporting Lauren’s campaign, please get in touch with the fundraising team on 0207 284 0800 and [email protected]

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