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 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!