Battling Bruin: Lauren

Posted January 2016

My name is Lauren Grabowski and I am both a UCLA student and a Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center patient.

I am a fourth year student majoring in human biology and society, with a minor in public health. Throughout my college career, I have been involved in cancer prevention, early detection and cancer research. Naturally, my UCLA classes include lessons on the scientific and social implications of cancer. In my second year, I volunteered for Peer Health Exchange where I went to different high schools in Los Angeles and educated students on nutrition and physical activity to prevent many diseases, including cancer. In my third year, I interned for Breathe LA where I researched and evaluated programs for different lung diseases, including lung cancer. Currently, I am involved in CanCan Health – a non-profit organization dedicated to putting women into action about their breast health, giving them tools for early detection, prevention and self-advocacy. For the last year, I have been facilitating cancer prevention and early detection workshops by bringing a health educator and breast cancer survivor to campus to educate UCLA students. My passionate involvement in cancer prevention, early detection and cancer research prepared me for an alternative view of cancer, becoming the patient.

On Oct. 5, 2015, I felt a lump on my neck. I was sitting on my bed doing readings for Education 122, “Perspectives on American Colleges,” and I reached for my neck where I felt a lump. It was big. It was hard. I had no symptoms. Immediately, I recognized that there was something in my body that did not belong. I used the tools that I learned from my previous involvement and decided to seek medical assistance. The UCLA Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center analyzed my blood work and chest X-ray. The next day I spoke with the medical director and he told me that there was a 90 percent chance that I had cancer. A week later, I received the diagnosis that I was expecting.

On Oct. 23, 2015, I was diagnosed with classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma. UCLA has not only blessed me with an education, but the top-ranked UCLA Medical Center. I have completed five rounds of ABVD, the chemotherapy commonly used for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Altogether, I will complete 12 rounds of chemotherapy and will graduate in the spring of 2016. These next few months will be filled with midterms, shots, presentations, chemotherapy and job interviews. I have adapted to this new lifestyle of student and patient. It is difficult and challenging, but it will not stop me from graduating and being an active Bruin. I’ll continue supporting UCLA sports teams, eating too much at Bruin Plate and doing the 8-clap.

Cancer has caused me to lose my hair, physical strength, freedom and independent lifestyle. However, cancer will not take away my pride of being a Bruin. Through this experience, I have witnessed the outstanding support from fellow UCLA students and organizations, including Campus Crusade for Christ and Chi Omega. I have delved into my faith and have experienced peace that surpasses all understanding. I have experienced the care and expertise of one of the best medical centers in the world. Lastly, I have been encouraged by hundreds of Bruins who believe in me. Cancer may have put boundaries on my senior year, but cancer has given me the opportunity to gain a holistic view of cancer and to become an optimistic Bruin.

John Wooden said it best, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

Thank you UCLA Spirit Squad for your support! Go Bruins!

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