I had the pleasure of photographing the fabulous event created by a cancer survivor, Rachael Murray last week. It is a event that recognizes individuals who have battled cancer or are currently in the fight against cancer. The event brings the community together to raise money for Albany Medical Center with a fashion show, raffles and a silent auction at the lovely Revolution Hall in downtown Troy. It was so great to see these strong children/survivors, doctors and nurses all be gathered together modeling clothing from local stores.
My cousin Lauren O'Brien participated in this event and spoke at the event with such courage and strength. She is the strongest person I know and I was so honored to see her speak.
Here is her beautiful speech she wrote.
Hello everyone, and thank you for coming out to our 4th annual Trending for Fashion fashion show. My name is Lauren O’Brien I’m 19 years old and I am a cancer survivor.
In the summer of 2009 my family and I were on a vacation when we started to notice that I was constantly not feeling well, and having a hard time breathing. At first it wasn't a big deal, until it reached the point where I couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs without having to break to catch my breath. When we finally got back home we went to countless doctors’ appointments trying to figure out what was going on. Diagnoses from the flu, to asthma, to mono, reached an end.
After a helicopter flight to Boston Children's, multiple x-rays, blood tests and machines finally a diagnosis was reached. I had been diagnosed at 12 years old with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
My white blood cells had been producing so rapidly to fight off any viruses that they formed into a mass. The mass happened to be sitting right on my chest not only making it nearly impossible to breathe, but also creating a fluid to build up. The fluid nearly filled my lungs and chest. When an echocardiogram revealed the mass and the fuzzy picture indicating the fluid, it was tested and came back positive for being cancerous. It came back positive for non- Hodgkin’s t-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma. A little hole in my heart and a few tubes in my chest and the fluid was drained, but that was only the beginning of a long journey. I had been put on an ECMO machine and after spending 2 months getting cardiac treatments in Boston Children's Hospital and missing my first day of 7th grade, I couldn’t wait to go home and thankfully I had the luxury of being able to get the rest of my treatments living at home at Albany Medical Center.
Thankfully I had the most amazing support system that I could've ever asked for. Before I even arrived home there was a benefit breakfast with a line out the door at our local fire house, there were t-shirts and bracelets were plastered through the community, and my friends and family constantly visited me and sent me cards in the mail to support me if they couldn't be there in person.
My family and I very quickly realized that the three things we needed the most to get through this were to have all of the love we could give each other, and to absorb all the love we can take. For me, to physically and mentally keep strength throughout whether it's working my body back to what it was, or just in staying sane. And to have hope that everything was going to be okay, no matter what happens along the way. That’s where our Love Strength Hope saying became plastered over our community.
When I first got back to Albany and realized that Albany Med, 5th floor would soon become me and my family's second home, I'm not going to lie, I wasn’t exactly too happy to be there. Although I was very happy I could be home and in my own bed with my family, I knew that my life was totally different from all of my friends my age. I wanted to be out with my friends at the football games, or at all of the family parties. But the staff at Albany Med soon did become my second family, from Colleen seeing me first thing in the morning and cracking jokes about how I was totally not a morning person, to them helping me get involved with things like Double H camp making me feel like a normal kid again, and things like the melodies of Christmas to get more involved. They really do everything they can in their power to not only provide kids with the care they need to get healthier and better, but also give you so much of their hearts and support to better your life.
The whole journey of going through treatment for two years really gave me a new perspective on life. It's the reason why I ended up doing what I do today staying involved and giving back. When you receive so much from complete strangers, the least you feel you need to do is give back some of it and it really is hard to put into words the feeling of such love and support you receive from everyone.
It was really crazy when mine and Rachel's lockers were right next to each other all throughout high school together, and then to find out we were diagnosed with nearly the same cancer shows you how small the world really is. I'm so glad that we were able to become close and help as a team give back to such a great place.
If it weren't for albany med, my family and amazing friends I truly wouldn't be where I am today, so I think we should take a moment and give a round of applause for not only all of the amazing staff at Albany Med who put their heart and souls into work every day, but also the family and reminds who stick by our side in times of need.