Lauren Elizabeth Stahl
During my senior year of high school, I became aware of a small bump on the back of my left arm that caused me a great amount of pain when my purse would bang against it.
Eventually, it caused me so much pain that I went to the doctor to have it looked at. Several doctors thought it was just a cyst, so I had it removed in a local surgical group's office.
I had a bad feeling after they removed the "cyst" in the doctor's office and there was still a piece of something in my arm. After several weeks, the pathology reports finally came back: I was diagnosed in September 2010 with stage 1 spindle cell sarcoma, a rare type of cancer. It was so rare that I had to travel all the way to Harvard for someone to identify it.
I was informed I had cancer by means of a phone call – not the best way to find out. I remember wondering two things: First, "Why God…why now?" and secondly, "Am I going to be survive this?"
I had two surgeries to remove the localized tumor and radiation treatments that lasted for six weeks.
As an 18-year-old, the experience was extremely eye-opening and really ignited a fire in my heart to do more for cancer patients who were facing much more difficult diagnoses and treatment plans. I was scared, but more importantly, I was extremely blessed by my prognosis and outcome. My tumor was located on my "funny bone" nerve, and thus, caused a great amount of pain. However, if this tumor had been located anywhere else in my body and metastasized, my outcome would have been much different.
I feel that God had saved me from a tumor that could have killed me, so fighting cancer became my mission. I believe God had a purpose for my diagnosis – for that scar that I now bear on the back of my arm – and this belief provides the passion and the drive to work hard to help cancer patients.
I attended community college while I was going through treatments and then transferred to Georgetown University to study biology and continue my fight against cancer. While I was at Georgetown, I worked in a pediatric sarcoma research laboratory and did my senior thesis research in the lab.
Currently, I am working as a Cancer Research Training Award recipient at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). It is my hope that I will continue fighting for cancer patients as both a researcher and prospective physical therapist.
As cancer patients, our scars are our stories. Recently, I have started a blog, Scars Create Stars to encourage cancer patients to use their scars to drive them forward and share their stories.
We're in this together – keep the faith and never give up hope!
Submitted February 2016.
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