By Janis and Marvin Zagoria
Lauren was a perfectly normal child. Her eyes were the deepest blue imaginable, brimming with curiosity and intellect; they were the focal points of a little girl’s beautiful face. Total strangers would stop us to marvel at her beauty and ask whether her hair was natural. She was a child who was easy to adore.
In retrospect, though, her beauty was fragile; her eyes were those of an old soul.
In 1991, when Lauren was just 21 months of age, a new vocabulary was introduced into her world – a litany of words full of dread, horror and very little hope. Our daughter was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a particularly brutal pediatric cancer that to this day has beaten doctors and researchers and remains a nightmarish disease with no cure.
Literally overnight, Lauren’s world changed from dolls and birthday parties and the security of her home to medical teams and punishing treatments and the insecurity of hospitals. Doctors, residents, interns and nurses, scanning, invading and almost always delivering one more bit of bad news, chipping away one more piece of our collective soul. And the loathsome chemotherapy – how it changed her. It robbed her strength, stole her hair, deformed her body and deadened her deep, blue eyes. From bone marrow biopsies without anesthesia to twice-a-day radiation treatments, she bore it all with a courage, bravery and dignity well beyond her years. She never complained; she never quit; she never stopped loving or trusting those who cared for her. After 14 long months of struggling, the disease was just too big for one little girl.
In the end, Lauren left us a legacy. It is in her memory and her honor that we carry her fight forward each year with Lauren’s Run – committed to finding the cure for the disease that took our beautiful child from us.
By Heather and Gilad Kochman
Our Lauren too was a perfectly normal little girl, with no signs of illness or disease. She was so full of life, and enjoyed every minute of her short time with us. She always had a twinkle in her eye and a smile you could see peeking from behind her “binky”. The thing we will remember most is her love of music, she loved music and loved to dance.
One December morning our lives were forever changed. What we thought was a common stomach virus turned into our worst nightmare. Lauren was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. She was only 16 months old. We were immediately admitted to the hospital to begin what turned out to be a never ending round of procedures: surgeries, blood tests, bone scans, bone marrow biopsies, chemotherapy and more.
Lauren was so strong and brave, after each invasive procedure she quickly bounced back to her happy, loving self. She never lost trust in us. Her illness forced her into maturity, in some strange way she seemed to understand what was happening and knew her time here would be brief.
Lauren’s treatment went extremely well, we had high hopes for her recovery. She took chemotherapy with ease. Her doctors called her the “chemo poster child” because she rebounded so quickly after each round.
After Lauren’s fourth round of chemo, she became extremely sick. Her immune system was too weak to fight off the illness. She fought hard, but could not recover. Ironically, it was the treatment, not the cancer, which took our little girl’s life.
Even though it is difficult, we must go on – but we have changed course and have different priorities. We now feel the need to help fight for a cure for cancer and prevent this awful disease from taking another child’s life. In Lauren’s memory, we will continue the fight the Zagoria’s started with Lauren’s Run.