Debbie Miller is a systems analyst at MD Anderson Hospital in Texas. Every day, she comes in contact with families who are affected by cancer. But when her daughter was diagnosed with cancer, it became that much more personal. She knew that she wanted to do something big to Go MOM on Cancer. Debbie is a two time Houston CureSearch Walk team captain and recently completed the Ultimate Hike with her daughter Lauren. Together they are Going MOM on Cancer, so that other families can receive world class care. Debbie recently shared her story with CureSearch.
“In April 2011, my daughter Lauren was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). She was 13 and in the 8th grade. She was in a bowling league and playing on two softball teams. She began complaining of being very tired, but we thought it was just because of school, homework, and softball. One day at softball practice, she got dizzy. The coach took her off the field and a friend’s mom brought her home. She had a headache, nausea, fatigue, and slight fever. She stayed home from school the next day and slept and I called her pediatrician and made an appointment. We had also noticed that some bruises were not going away. Her father took her to the appointment and the doctor did tests for Mono and Strep, but both came back negative. The doctor drew more blood for additional tests because she said that her white cell count looked questionable.
“That evening, Lauren started having pain in her hips and legs. I tried everything I knew to help relieve the pain, and finally some Advil PM allowed her to sleep. I called the doctor’s office first thing the next morning, they told me to take Lauren to the ER at Texas Children’s Hospital and that a specific doctor would be handling Lauren’s case and additional testing was needed. After spending 8 hours in the ER, we were told that Lauren had leukemia. We were floored. We didn’t know the type yet, or what was going to happen, but our journey with cancer had begun.
“Lauren was transferred to MD Anderson, where I work as a system analyst. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and treatment started immediately. She was in the hospital for 10 days and then began treatment as an outpatient. She did not finish the 8th grade with her classmates, but instead finished it out at home. She did not get to start freshman year with her friends, but instead attended school through the homebound program and met with her teacher in the classroom at MD Anderson. She returned to public school in January 2012 and has been doing great!
“It appears that we are now at the end of this part of our journey. Her maintenance phase of treatment ended on August 20, 2013. Lauren turned 16 on that very same day and there was a very special cancer free sweet 16 party!
“Throughout her treatment, Lauren has shown strength, courage and beauty. She has matured and become a very beautiful and caring young lady. During the past 2 1/2 years, Lauren has returned to bowling and become involved with CureSearch. We have participated in the two Houston Walks and we formed a team for the CureSearch’s Houston Ultimate Hike. Lauren was the local Hike Hero and we attended several informational sessions telling our story. She has been a guest speaker for a class at University of Houston. She is a member of the imPACT Council at MD Anderson. She has been asked to participate on a panel at the annual education conference at MD Anderson and a panel for new pediatric physicians at MD Anderson. She is also a designer for the Children’s Art Project at MD Anderson.
“As a mom, you want to do anything and everything to protect your child. I felt terrible when there was nothing that I could do to make her feel better. You would take the place of your child if you could. The adrenalin kicks in and you just keep going. You do whatever it takes to make things more bearable and try to find something to bring a smile. You will fix whatever snack is desired no matter what time of the day. You will hug, cradle, and comfort your child as much as you can. You will not fail at any task.”
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