Tuesday, May 30, 2006Laurianne's Story
I submitted this version of Laurianne's Story to The Healing Project and wanted to share it with you as well. It is a slight extension of the original speech I gave in November 2005 for Lung Cancer Alliance.
My sister, Laurianne Koning, grew up in a non-smoking household. She was a non-smoker, and did not work or live in a smoking environment.
In the fall 2002, Laurianne was living her dreams. She worked as a nanny in New York, a city she always dreamed of living in. Because of her job as a nanny, she was able to do some traveling, and see new places. While living in New York, she also learned to swim, something she hadn't really learned as a child. It soon became one of her passions, and she made sure she would swim at least 4 days a week. She was soon swimming a mile a day. The only problem, which she complained to our mom about, was that she sometimes had shoulder pain when she swam. But, at the ripe old age of 23 years old, no one would have thought to worry about it. We now suspect that this could have been an early warning sign that Laurianne was afflicted by lung cancer.
Two years later, in November of 2004, Laurianne came to visit me in Indianapolis. At that time, she told me she was pregnant. Shortly after she returned home from her visit, she found that she was often out of breath. Laurianne went to the doctor, and she was diagnosed with pregnancy-related asthma. Laurianne's asthma got so bad she could no longer walk a city block without losing her breath. Since she was going to be a single mom, my parents convinced her to move back home to California so they could help her out at least until the baby was born. It took some convincing, because Laurianne was very independent, but she finally agreed. She also thought it would be nice to be near our mom when the baby arrived.
In mid-May, she was diagnosed with pneumonia and was hospitalized for a week. Doctors had her hooked up to machines to make sure the baby was okay. Through most of her pregnancy, she had a hacking cough, which doctors believed lead up to the pneumonia. They suspected Laurianne's lung had collapsed. Laurianne was mostly concerned that her baby would be okay. She was not due for another month, and although doctors were prepared to do a premature delivery, they preferred to wait until closer to her due date.
Due to her increased breathing difficulties, and because her baby could be delivered safely, they began to induce labor June 3rd. On June 5th, my nephew, Calem, was born by cesarean. He was very healthy. Unlike most mothers who can immediately take care of their babies, however, Laurianne was tested to see why she couldn't breath. One day after Calem was born, they verified that her right lung had indeed collapsed. They rushed her to ICU and put a chest tube in her side to reinflate her lung. Two days after Calem was born, my sister was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was later determined the cancer was mucinous adenocarinoma, a rare form of lung cancer for non-smokers. I remember calling my mom to see how my sister was doing, and they had just received the diagnosis of lung cancer. I heard Laurianne sobbing in the background because she just wanted to be with her baby and be like any other new mom. Instead, they had to put her on medications so she couldn't breast feed, and Calem had to spend some time his first few days in the nursery because he wasn't allowed in ICU. She didn't want to be away from him. But after six days of testing and limited visits with her newborn, she was finally released from the hospital.
Laurianne was able to breast feed for a short time before she had to begin cancer treatments. My husband and I came from Indianapolis to visit my sister in August. She was very tired but very positive. She was trying to pump milk because she was convinced that after her chemotherapy, her tumor would be gone, and then she would be able to breast feed again. Laurianne never lost her sense of humor or positive attitude. Since she loved chocolate cake, she joked with us that the doctors were wrong and she really just had a piece of chocolate cake lodged in her lung. And she already was working to promote lung cancer awareness and how it could affect anyone, even a non-smoking, 25-year-old single mom.
In September, my sister was planning on attending an event to make people aware of lung cancer. Laurianne also began suffering from dizziness and headaches. The Friday before one of her cancer events, my mom convinced Laurianne to go out with a friend for a Girls Night Out and not talk cancer or Calem. Her life had been revolving around these two things and she needed time for herself. When Laurianne returned home with her friend, she suffered from severe dizziness, a massive headache and vomiting. My dad, a registered nurse, recognized something more was going on and took her to the emergency room. The doctors were not sure what was going on with her. They told her they wanted to admit her to the hospital, but they could not begin testing until Monday. She convinced her doctors not to have her sit around all weekend, because she would miss her event and an opportunity to share her story about lung cancer. That Monday, September 19th, 2005, Laurianne found out she had a brain tumor that was spread by the lung tumor. I flew out to support my parents and help take care of Calem. On Tuesday, September 20, 2005, we almost lost my sister because she began having seizures related to the brain tumor. They operated on her, and the brain tumor was successfully removed. The doctors were amazed at the size of her tumor. It was so large, they were surprised she still had the capabilities to walk and talk before it was removed.
Laurianne was to undergo radiation to make sure the tumor did not return which is standard procedure. I will never forget how radiant and full of life Laurianne seemed when I said good-bye to her to return to Indiana . I am very grateful to the doctors that helped perform this operation on my sister, because it gave us one more precious month to have her in our lives.
On October 22, 2005 Laurianne went to a doctor friend's house for dinner, accompanied by our parents and her son. She was in the doorway when she collapsed. Her friend quickly began CPR and 911 was called. Laurianne died from complications of her illness on the way to the hospital. I will never forget my mom's voice when she phoned me with the news my sister had died.
There is a stigma that lung cancer only affects smokers. No one in my family is a smoker. My 25-year-old sister never lived with smokers. Yet, because of lung cancer my brother and I no longer have our sister. Because of lung cancer, my parents no longer have their youngest daughter. Because of lung cancer, my nephew is going to grow up without his mom in his life. Stories, pictures and videos can not replace his mother for him. Because of lung cancer, I speak out for my sister, Laurianne, and other victims of this insidious disease whose voices are no longer heard. I want a cure for lung cancer so that other families will not have to suffer loss, the way my family is suffering because Laurianne is no longer in our lives.
Posted by Lynda (Laurianne's Sister) :: 4:45 PM :: 2 people are more aware ---------------------------------------