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One of the first things that went through 13-year-old Lauren Murphy’s mind when she learned she had cancer was, “Am I going to die?” Knowing that her cancer was in her brain brought added worries. She wondered, “If I survive, will I be the same person?” After all the brain is the sanctuary for all things that made her uniquely Lauren —her memories, her talents, her likes and dislikes, her dreams for her future, her bubbly and vivacious personality.
A golf ball-sized tumor in the middle of her cerebellum threatened to rob her of it all.
Lauren suffered with debilitating symptoms for more than a year. A CT scan finally revealed a large mass in Lauren’s brain. Lauren’s mother, Ruth Taylor, was told “take her, right now, to Johns Hopkins."
Pediatric experts at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center performed surgery on Lauren’s brain to remove the tumor and followed up with radiation therapy and chemotherapy to make sure all of the cancer cells had been destroyed.
Five years later, Lauren is a college student at Towson University studying public relations and American sign language. She was inspired to study sign language after suffering some hearing loss as result of her cancer treatment. Once a gifted dancer, the tumor that struck the balance center of her brain has caused her to pack away her ballet shoes and pursue other interests.
Among these new interests is advocate for childhood cancer survivors. Because pediatric cancers are rare, they do not receive the attention or funding that adult cancers receive. Testifying before Congress with the Children’s Cause of Cancer Advocacy, Lauren has become a voice for all children suffering from cancer, calling for increased funding for basic research, drug discovery, and ways to prevent and manage the lasting side effects caused by treatment.
Lauren says, “I focus on the positives. There are far more positives. After all, I don’t have cancer anymore".