Lauren, a 2019 National Gold Award Girl Scout, tells us how she took personal trauma and turned it into something good.
I actually can’t remember a time when cancer wasn’t a part of my life. In fact, my first real memory is from when I was three or four and at a doctor’s appointment with my mom, who was battling breast cancer. I didn’t understand everything that was going on at the time, but I do remember the doctor having me help change my mom’s bandage and being sad sometimes because she couldn’t pick me up. When I was in grade school, my grandfather, who I was really close to, got cancer. And most recently, I watched as a younger girl I knew through dance class fought it and eventually died.
The thing about the girl I knew from dance, though, was that she was so alive and had so much spirit through the whole thing. She didn’t just exist or suffer through this incredibly painful experience, she actually danced through it—which sounds crazy, but that’s just who she was. Her life really inspired me, because I’ve seen firsthand how hard it can be to keep a positive attitude when faced with cancer, but that’s what she did. She was never like, “Oh, it’s not worth it because I’m sick and might die.” Instead, she saw that she was still alive and wanted to live her best life while she could.
Beyond erasing cancer from the planet—obviously the biggest wish—what I’d love most is to give everyone who has to battle it the strength and sense of joy that my dance friend had. So for my Girl Scout Gold Award, I focused on profiling people young and old who are living with cancer. I started out interviewing cancer survivors, asking them what advice they’d give to newly diagnosed patients and what kind of encouraging words they might have for them. I also asked what type of emotional support they needed, what was lacking in their communities, and what would be helpful to receive from the people in their lives.
From there, I compiled their stories, worked with a publisher, and put out a book called Stories of Hope: Be the Light. I’d never done anything like this before, and it was hard learning how to use all the software and working with a publisher to make it all happen. But now it’s a real book, and not only do several hospitals and oncology centers have copies to share with patients, but it’s also available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon! Additionally, I created a resource for those who have a loved one living with cancer to help them find the best words to provide support, comfort, and stability.
Nothing I can do will bring back my friend or anyone else who has passed away, but I feel confident that through my Gold Award, I’ve been able to bring hope and joy to those who are still with us.