Lauren - A Special Little Girl

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Lauren

A Special Little Girl

Photos By Joe Gigli

By Jeanne Dikdan Gigli

ROXBURY Lauren Brinkman of Succasunna is a special little girl. Like most other 3-year-olds, she can be a bit quiet and shy. She

loves to explore and pretend at the park where she sometimes shows off her developing sense of independence, but still craves her mother's love and reassurance. With her blue eyes as clear as a summer sky and a giggly sort of smile, she is a child of joy to everyone around her.
   But, unlike most 3-year-olds, Lauren has already embarked on the fight of her life the fight to overcome acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). This indeed makes her special not only to her family and team of pediatric oncologists at Hackensack University Medical Center's Tomorrow's Children's Institute for Cancer and Blood Disorders, she has

been selected as Girl of the Year by the Northern New Jersey Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).
   Lauren was diagnosed with high risk ALL June 2001 and immediately began intensive chemotherapy treatments.
     "When we first found out, we were beyond shocked," explained Lauren's mother, Kristen. "We kept wondering, 'MY child has cancer?' It's still a little surreal. We've come to realize that you just have to go on with your life as you're going through" all the pain and

treatments. "We're very blessed to have wonderful support from all our family," she added.
   This is also the reason she and her husband, John, got involved with LLS, based in Springfield. "We could use all the support we can get," noted Mrs. Brinkman.

  During the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's 2002 Man & Woman of the Year campaign, Lauren and her counterpart Ricky DeBenedictis of Bayonne (Boy of the Year), will serve as a source of inspiration and support throughout the annual 8-week fundraising event. The campaign culminates with a grande finale benefit luncheon . on Tuesday, June 9 complete with a strolling buffet, entertainment, and Chinese and silent auctions.
   The LLS is a non-profit, voluntary health organization whose mission is to raise funds for research to cure leukemia and its blood-related

cancers, as well as to improve the quality of life for patients and their families. According to Mrs. Brinkman, the Society provides Lauren with transportation to and from her hospital treatments.
   Leukemia is a disease of the bone marrow commonly referred to as cancer of the blood. In leukemia, the bone marrow creates an overabundance of abnormal white cells that cannot perform their normal function of fighting infection. These diseased cells multiply rapidly and crowd out the normal cells. They then spill into the blood and can even get into the brain and spinal cord.
   Although hairless from the chemotherapy, Lauren is now in remission but will remain on maintenance treatments for at least another year and a half. The overall 5-year survival rate for children with ALL is now 81 percent. In 1960, the survival rate was only 4 percent. Lauren is also in physical therapy to improve her gross motor skills such as lower body strength and joint stiffness.
   "As a parent, my greatest wish would be that all children will be cured of cancer," said Mrs. Brinkman.
   For further information or to obtain tickets to the benefit luncheon, please call Kisha Achoe at (973) 376-9559

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