By Barbara Fahs
Twelve year old Roarin’ Lauren Selden returned to Hilo on Wednesday, July 25 after a long, tough year in Seattle, where she was treated for cancer. A group of about 30 sign-carrying friends and family greeted Lauren and her parents Todd and Piper, older brother Tedd and doggie Skittles at the airport. Many members of the Paradise Roller Girls and Big Island Babes Junior Roller Derby were present to welcome their teammate home.
“We learned of Lauren’s cancer in July 2011, just after her eleventh birthday,” her mom, Piper, said. “It was a particularly rare, fast-growing bone cancer known as Ewing’s Sarcoma. Whatever we were going to do, we had to do it fast. Although we moved to Hilo from Portland in 2003, both my husband and I still have family in the Pacific Northwest. They helped us connect with Seattle Children’s Hospital, which has specialists in Lauren’s type of cancer. We flew over within three days of receiving the diagnosis. I ‘quit my life’ in a single weekend – my graduate studies, teaching jobs, my business “Hawaii Rainbow Worms,” everything – to dedicate myself to Lauren’s healing.”
Ronald McDonald House Provided Needed Support
The Seldens stayed at the Ronald McDonald House during their time in Seattle. “We couldn’t be more than one hour from the hospital at any time,” Piper explained. “The ‘Clown House’ is an amazing place – a supportive environment where everyone with a critically ill child is on the same page. We met some folks who I know will be lifelong friends.”
Lauren’s treatment consisted of six surgeries, including the replacement of her left femur. That, plus ten months of intensive chemotherapy, resulted in the complete eradication of her cancerous tumors. Lauren reports that her friendships with the other children at Seattle Children’s, two of whom had the same type of cancer, were “the coolest part of the whole experience. Only two in a million get this kind of cancer, so to be able to compare notes (and complain!) with other kids was so important to me.”
Lauren added. “The other cool thing that happened while I was there was when another patient, an older boy named Chris Rumble, made a video of us kids and some of the nurses lip synching and dancing to Kelly Clarkson’s song ‘Stronger.’ Chris put it up on YouTube and it went viral! I think it’s gotten over two million hits by now!”
Social Media Connected Friends and Family
“Of course this experience was hard for the whole family,” Piper added, “but we were really helped by the caring and support of friends and loved ones — even people we didn’t know. Through Facebook and a blog called Caring Bridge, we communicated what was happening with Lauren, as well as some of our hopes and fears. I love to write, so posting was therapeutic. The love we received was heartwarming and so encouraging. Like we aren’t alone because so many people care.”
What Does the Future Hold?
Lauren’s prognosis is good, but trips back to Seattle every three months will be necessary for the foreseeable future. After the first year or so, the visits will become less frequent, “but we’ll have to return periodically for at least five years,” Piper said. Ever positive, Lauren added, “I’ll be back to skating with Big Island Babes before you know it.”
“Stronger” video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihGCj5mfCk8
Seattle Children’s Hospital: www.seattlechildrens.org
The Seldens have set up two accounts where people can make donations to Lauren’s ongoing medical expenses:
PayPal: Send contributions to Lauren@PiperSelden.com
(click the “personal gift” option to avoid a service fee). Any Home Street Bank: just give Lauren’s name.