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Headband Hero Spotlight: Lauren Nelson

by Jessica Ekstrom September 20, 2016

Headband Hero Spotlight: Lauren Nelson

Lauren Nelson, a student at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, sent Headbands of Hope the story of her brave fight against cancer that inspired her to help other children:

'I was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor, a cancer of the kidney, in my left kidney in 2000 at the age of six. This diagnosis came six months after my three-year-old sister was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor in her right kidney. I was treated at UW-Children's Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin by an amazing team of pediatric oncologists.  When I was diagnosed, I was at what psychologists call, a critical age. Since I was diagnosed at this age, I remember a great amount of detail during my time in the hospital and the time I spent going through chemotherapy. 

My experience with chemotherapy, like all children going through the healing process, was not pleasant. Although I vaguely remember the visits to receive my chemotherapy, I do remember vividly the way people treated me while I was sickly-looking and bald. One memory that sticks out like a sore thumb in my mind is when a little boy thought I was a little boy. My grandparents took me to McDonalds for lunch and like a normal six-year-old, I was playing on the indoor playground. The memory fades in and out but what I distinctly remember was that I went screaming down the slide and after I got to the bottom of the giant slide, this little boy came up to me and said, "You scream like a girl." I remember feelings of confusion and sadness overwhelming my fragile, ill body. After this, my mom took me to get fitted for a wig. I was thrilled to pick out a new head of hair; but, little did I know at the time, it would look worse than being bald. 

The wig would often fall off at recess to only leave the children around me with faces of disgust and horror. It was itchy and I would always want to take it off because of how uncomfortable it was to have on. I also knew that it looked 100% fake. The wig only made me feel worse about my self image, instead of doing it's intended purpose; making me feel better about myself. 

Headbands of Hope is not only providing children with cancer headbands, they are giving these children a confidence boost. I know for certain that if I was given headbands to wear, instead of wigs, they would have conserved my femininity and confidence during my chemotherapy process and it would have made it completely different kind of experience. For this reason, and my burning passion to help children battling cancer, I am a Headband Hero. Having first hand experience of what chemotherapy and the cancer battle not only does to the body; but, also the mind, drives my motivation to make the lives of these extraordinary and inspiring children, brighter. 

I am excited to visit hospitals around Wisconsin to deliver Headbands of Hope to these brave soldiers battling a fight that no child should ever know.' - Lauren

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Jessica Ekstrom
Jessica Ekstrom

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