Former Pediatric Patient Turned Nursing Student Reflects on Her Cancer Journey, Inspiration for Career
Lauren Foster made her first trip to the United States from her family’s home in Birmingham, England when she was 10 years old. It was a trip that would change her life. Lauren, her mother, father and sister made the journey together so that Lauren could receive proton therapy treatment for a rare tumor called rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of tumor that occurs in soft tissue. Lauren’s tumor was at the base of her throat and could not be safely resected. Therefore, proton therapy was recommended. Her family chose the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute based on their physician’s recommendation and because at the time, proton therapy was not available in the United Kingdom.
Lauren, now 21-years-old, looks back on that time with appreciation for all the nurses did to make her comfortable during her treatments. It’s what inspired her to pursue a nursing career, and she’s nearly completed her university studies in Birmingham to begin that career path.
“It feels like giving something back, becoming a nurse,” Lauren said recently.
Lauren recalls it being nerve-racking to visit a new place and receive a medical treatment she was unfamiliar with all at the same time. “Even though I was at my worst, we had the best time,” Lauren said.
She remembers fondly that the staff at the Institute made her family feel welcome and that everything would be ok. “We celebrated with a cake at the end of my treatment,” Lauren said with a laugh.
In 2016, Lauren and her family returned to the Institute for a follow-up visit with Dr. Danny Indelicato and to visit nearby tourist attractions in Florida. A teenager at the time, Lauren told the staff she hoped to one day become a nurse and now she is nearly there.
Today, she is completing her nursing training and is a nursing student at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed with cancer and began her chemo treatments. When she finishes her education in August, she will begin a full-time nursing job in the stem cell ward, which is linked to the oncology ward. She will be treating patients just like herself in the very place she was treated. “Sometimes it is strange; not much has changed,” she said.
Lauren stays busy with her nursing training and preparing to go to work full-time, but when she has free time, she enjoys reading and spending time with friends and family. She hopes she will be able to visit the United States again soon, as well as the Institute. She’d like to see some of the staff and see what has changed around the center.