Lauren Powers had always been the kind of person who lived at 110%. Always on the go. Always moving.
In her youth, she was a gymnast, baseball player, swimmer, a diver, an ice hockey player, and the list went on. Even when she got older, into her forties and fifties, she didn’t slow down much.
But for the last ten years, life hasn’t been so easy. Her husband survived a horrific car accident that crushed his legs, leaving him handicapped and in chronic pain. While he hasn’t let his situation slow him down much, it’s been difficult. Then, Lauren lost her mother after a long chronic illness. It was a difficult loss, but together, they stayed strong and overcame it.
In June of 2018, Lauren faced her next challenge.
She had not quite been feeling like herself, slowed by a lack of energy. She didn’t feel like going out with friends as much as she typically did, then she had to back away from some of her volunteer work.
Then her stomach started bothering her, though it wasn’t initially worrisome. She just chalked it up to aging and the poor nutrition that comes with a less than healthy diet. That’s when things took a turn.
One day, when she suddenly began vomiting blood, Lauren took herself directly to the ER. Two hours later, she was admitted to the hospital and began her a fight against stage IV gastric stomach cancer.
These days, she goes for treatment once a week. There have been some setbacks, and doctors have had to continually adjust her drug regimen.
“Each patient needs their own specific cocktail of drugs, but it’s amazing what they can do now and how far they’ve come with research,” she says.
Still, finding the right combination of drugs to be effective takes some trial and error. Lauren went through some pretty rough days, and pain management is still an issue. But after seven months of her latest combination of chemo treatments, it seems to be working great.
“The side effects are horrible, but they don’t last. I power through the bad days and enjoy the good days the best I can.”
In the past few months, Lauren has been diagnosed with brain cancer and recently underwent surgery to remove the largest of five brain tumors. Surgery went perfectly and Lauren continues her road to recovery with much thanks to her incredible Medical team.
Lauren doesn’t see friends nearly as much as she used to. She also misses spending countless hours with her ten-year-old niece, Alexis, who hasn’t hesitated to become Lauren’s “little nurse”. She can only manage to spend a fraction of that time with her now. She says the energy level just isn’t there during chemo and radiation treatment weeks.
But her support system has been great. Her brother and his family live next door and a wide circle of friends is there to help. “I’m a bit of a clean freak, and my friends know that, so they’re always over helping to keep it neat here.”
Lauren says her husband has been her backbone through all this. Even so, with Lauren working less, things have gotten tough financially.
“I’m a writer, but I can’t work nearly as much. We’ve had the gas shut off. The electricity was shut off. Cable was shut off. We lost Internet. It’s embarrassing, and you feel like you failed.”
Lauren eventually shared these thoughts with Lori, her caseworker, who ultimately connected Lauren to the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. After submitting a grant application, the Foundation ultimately granted her money towards paying outstanding utility and internet/cable bills.
Lauren has also attended some Joe Andruzzi Foundation events she found uplifting.
“You hear all these inspirational stories. It creates a kind of camaraderie so you don’t feel so all alone. The people you meet might not be in your inner circle, but they definitely understand what you’re going through.”
As for the Foundation itself, Lauren couldn’t be more inspired. She says, “From your first contact with them, they’re on your side for the rest of your journey.”
Lauren’s battle may be ongoing, but her experience with JAF is motivating her to find ways to give back herself.
“Cancer is a horrible way to meet amazing people, but I have met some truly amazing people through this journey.,” she says. “I’d like to try to find a way to be part of something to help others.”