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Cancer girl Lauren an absolute star, says proud mum.

Byline: THOMAS DEACON Reporter thomas.deacon@mediawales.co.uk

A TEENAGE girl diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer miraculously survived surgery to remove a footballsized tumour and a brutal course of drugs that could have caused more cancer.

Lauren Thomas was 15 when she started to have stomach pains and felt a lump in her abdomen.

In the space of a few hours after showing her mum, Lauren was diagnosed with one of the rarest childhood cancers in the UK.

Mum-of-three Sarah, 35, from Abertridwr, Caerphilly, said: "It felt like I had been hit by a train.

"We went to the doctors with an upset tummy and a bit of swelling.

"That was about 10am in the morning and they took some blood tests there and then and by 2pm we were in the hospital and by 4pm we had the life-altering news that it was cancer.

"It kind of shook us, but it didn't shake Lauren. She took it all in her stride. I think the main thing she was concerned about was losing her eyebrows."

Lauren, now 16, was diagnosed with stage four ovarian dysgerminoma cancer and was admitted to the Teenage Cancer Trust ward at the University Hospital of Wales.

Sarah said: "From day one really she was ready to go and she just adopted the policy of, OK you've been dealt this card and let's just do what we've got to do and keep smiling.

"And she has, she has kept smiling.

Every single day.

"There's been one, maybe two, tears.

Every single day there's been a smile.

"Even on the darkest days, when they gave us the news it was stage four, and there are lots and lots of statistics that come with having stage four cancer, she took it all in her stride.

"She just wanted to crack on with chemotherapy and get the surgery done and get on with her life."

Sarah said: "One of the drugs that Lauren received was still being trialled. And we had to give our consent for Lauren to receive this drug, called Bleomycin, of creating an onset of another type of cancer is quite high.

"But the pros outweigh the cons, so we signed the papers.

"We had to wait a couple of weeks then for the drugs to become available, made special. And then it was our seventh, eighth week at the hospital when the first round of drugs went up.

"And she's been smiling ever since."

The specialist told Lauren that the drug would affect her for the rest of her life. She said: "It will stay with her now for the rest of her life, so alcohol will be a no.

"She also has liver problems and the Bleomycin causes problems with her lungs.

"So she will always have to be careful with exercise and with any other additional operations.

"But after that initial doctor we signed the papers that day."

Doctors had to carry out a Hickman line operation on Lauren, which opens up a line through the body direct from above the heart to the shoulder area for the administration of drugs.

Sarah said: "It kind of finalised it. That was the moment we realised it was real. It wasn't just people telling us Lauren had cancer, they were preparing now to make her quite poorly." With a Hickman line you cannot bath and it has to be changed and cleaned regularly.

As with much of Lauren's treatment, the family used some dark humour after hearing how large her tumour was.

Sarah said: "When they told us the size I was like Jesus Christ Big Bertha! And it just stuck.

"We joked about it. Rather than treat the tumour seriously, we joked about the size of her tummy and I think that's how we survived. We did what we could do make her laugh."

Despite maintaining an optimistic attitude throughout the treatment, there were dark moments.

Sarah said: "We had one day after her surgery, when she was very very poorly and they asked us to call the family.

"And I said no, I'm not going to do that she's going to be fine.

"And she was grey and all the doctors were coming in to see her including one consultant that we didn't expect came and visited her. So lots of us thought that this was going to be the end. But 24 hours later she was sat in bed eating custard creams."

After the rounds of chemotherapy the tumour volume was reduced and surgeons were able to remove it on February 16 in a six-hour long operation.

Sarah said: "The cancer had spread into the surround lymph nodes and into her uterus, they didn't just remove the tumour but the lymph nodes

and part of her uterus.

She added: "You love your children, but when something like this happens you do admire them, "She is everything I would ever hope to be. She is fantastic and she has been my rock, and she still is.

"She's an absolute star." Lauren will continue to have regular tests for years.

Sarah said: "Lauren will be on high surveillance now for the next year because coming back from stage four cancer is a big big thing, it doesn't happen to many people, and the chances of a cancer coming back are still quite high so she's seen every four weeks and blood tests."

Lauren's head of year, school teacher David Satterly is about to race along the 70-mile Velothon course in Cardiff on Sunday to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust after being inspired by his pupil's story.

David, 52, from Danescourt, Cardiff, said: "Well I've been totally inspired by Lauren and the way she has dealt with things and I also appreciate the things teenage Cancer trust has done for her." | Donations for David's velothon can be made at http://uk.virgin moneygiving.com/DavidSatterly

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Lauren pictured during her treatment

Lauren with her teacher David Satterly

Lauren Thomas, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 15, with her mum Sarah RICHARD WILLIAMS
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 6, 2017
Words:1016
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