Lauryn Louise was born on the 18th December 1999 at Northam Regional Hospital in Western Australia. For the following four and a half years Lauryn lived her life as any other young girl would with her parents Melanie and Mike.
About the time of Mother's Day in Lauryn's fourth year she started to complain of a racing heart and would complain of a sore tummy from time to time. I took Lauryn to see our local Doctor on a number of occasions to have her checked out each time with no real result. On Saturday 26th June 2004, I noticed that Lauryn's breathing was unusual. I booked Lauryn in with the local Doctor's surgery for later that morning. On looking at Lauryn the Doctor found a solid mass in Lauryn's abdomen and gave me a letter for the emergency department of Princess Margaret Children's Hospital and asked me to take Lauryn there straight away.
The emergency staff saw Lauryn straight away. Blood samples were taken and a Doctor had a good feel of the mass in Lauryn's abdomen. A couple of hours later the pediatrician spoke to me and I was informed that they believed Lauryn's spleen was enlarged and that her blood test had shown that her white blood cell count was abnormal. The pediatrician then went on to tell me that they believed Lauryn had cancer and that it may be leukemia. Lauryn underwent further tests. The following day I was told Lauryn didn't have leukemia but another childhood cancer called neuroblastoma stage 4.
The neuroblastoma had originated in Lauryn's left adrenal gland above her kidney. The tumor on Lauryn's adrenal gland was the size of a small grapefruit. Lauryn's cancer was also "stage 4". Her bone and bone marrow systems were both cancerous. Within days Lauryn started an aggressive course of chemotherapy. This would go on for about six months.
During that six month period Lauryn underwent much discomfort suffering continuous nausea, several operations and having to have a nasal / gastric tube inserted through her nose directly into her stomach so that medications and food could be fed to her at very low amounts so as not to disturb her stomach too much. Lauryn also had a broviac line fitted. This required an operation to insert a tube. This was a tube surgically inserted which ran under her skin up to her neck where it then was inserted directly into a blood artery. The other end came out from under her skin near her breast. It was through this that Lauryn had her chemotherapy drugs administered. Other medications including pain killers were passed through this line directly into her blood system as well as saline drips to keep Lauryn hydrated.
Early on Lauryn lost her long hair. It was a trying time for her. Not only was she very sick because of the chemotherapy drugs but she also had to get used to having no hair and having a tube up her nose which drew attention to her on those times when she was allowed to leave the hospital with me and her mum to take her home.
One of the operations left Lauryn with a scar running from one side of her abdomen to the other. This operation was to remove the tumor which had once been her left adrenal gland. The Doctors reported that they were very happy with the way it went. Unfortunately five days later the Doctors had to re-operate as during the first operation part of Lauryn's bowel had twisted which was causing her problems. This added a couple of weeks to Lauryn's recovery at that time. Some weeks later we also learnt that Lauryn's left kidney had died. Luckily, Lauryn didn't have to have another operation to have her kidney removed as it shrank within her causing no medical problems.
Towards the end of the six months Lauryn underwent stem cell rescue. Earlier in Lauryn's treatment a small amount of her stem cells were removed from her blood and stored for several weeks until she would require them again. After her sixth course of chemotherapy Lauryn started what is called Megatherapy. Lauryn was given enough chemotherapy drugs to kill off all the white blood cells in her body. By doing this it was hoped that all the cancer cells in her blood would be killed. This also meant that all the good cells were also killed. During this time Lauryn was kept in strict isolation with only medical staff and Lauryn's mum and me being allowed to be with her. This was because her body had no natural defense against infection due to her white blood cells all being killed off. Once the Doctors were convinced that Lauryn's white blood cells were all killed off she was given a transfusion of her stem cells that had been harvested from her blood several weeks before. Over this time Lauryn spent a total of six weeks in her little room in hospital never being allowed or feeling well enough to leave the room. Lauryn finally left the room for a day visit home so she could spend Christmas day at home with the family. Lauryn returned to the hospital that night and Lauryn was finally released the following day to return home. This ended the year 2004.
For the next six months Lauryn slowly returned to a somewhat normal life which included returning to school and playing with her friends. She started to grow her hair back and her broviac line and nasal / gastric tube were removed. She had a number of sessions of radiotherapy which were done with Lauryn being an outpatient. She also needed a number of blood transfusions as her own system had not recovered properly yet.
At the end of June 2005 Lauryn started to have a lot of discomfort in her back. Lauryn was taken to the hospital and checked over by the Doctors. At this time they couldn't find anything but thought that it may have been as she had been given a dose of radiotherapy on her spine some months before. On the 7th of July Lauryn lost the use of her legs. When she was picked up her legs just flopped around. We took Lauryn into the hospital for the Doctors to check. Unfortunately Lauryn had relapsed and had another new tumor on her spine towards her neck which was crushing in on her spinal cord. Lauryn was sent for radiotherapy straight away. Within a couple of days Lauryn was once again walking around although with not much strength. Lauryn was also given a number of other tests to determine the extent of her relapse. It was not good news with the scans showing a number of new tumors in her soft organs and along her spine. The tumors of most concern were located in her right lung and liver with another in the soft tissue of her neck. It was at this time that we realized that we were going to eventually lose our beautiful little girl. Lauryn was started on a course of maintenance chemotherapy which was to slow down the advance of the cancer. This was administered to Lauryn at home and she was not required to stay in hospital.
Lauryn still attended school although at a reduced attendance. She could only stay for a morning before becoming tired and having to return home to rest. Lauryn fought on bravely with the hospital staff surprised that she was able to attend school for as long as she did. She even participated in sport at school and was competitive when doing so.
During this time Lauryn developed a number of visible tumor growths on her skull which were made even more obvious as her hair had not had a chance to re-grow due to the on-going chemotherapy.
Over the following weeks Lauryn's condition slowly worsened. She began to sleep a lot and she eventually lost the use of her legs and right arm. She developed a cough and the tumor in her right lung which created a lot of phlegm. On the 7th July 2006 Lauryn passed away peacefully in the arms of her Mummy and Daddy.
Two days previously Lauryn had been able to go to the movies with her mum and myself. We went to see "Over the Hedge" and Lauryn laughed all the way through. She lived a full life over her short six and a half years. She is now a "Little Heavenly Angel" missed by family and many friends, friends of Lauryn Louise.
Prior to Lauryn passing she participated in the 2006 Perth Relay For Life with the team named for her, "Friends of Lauryn Louise". She was honoured by lighting the candle for the future during the candle light ceremony. Lauryn passed a few weeks later. Since then the team has participated in 10 Perth Relays and are now preparing for the 2016 Perth Relay. We have raised over $125.000 during that time.
Donate to Friend of Lauryn Louise and support their ongoing Relay journey.