GVSU student inspires with video blog
Student Survives cancer with help of personal blog
When Grand Valley State University student Lauren Wagner was diagnosed with cancer in November of 2010, she wasn’t sure where to look for advice.
“I was in my dorm in Niemeyer, sitting there, it was 2:30 in the morning, I was Googling my illness and trying to figure out what to do, where to go, anything, really,” Wagner said.
Amidst all the horror stories on the Internet of chemotherapy symptoms and other issues that come with cancer, Wagner found someone she could relate to.
“I came across another girl who had video recorded her adventure, and she kind of just rambled in her videos and it was like I found myself in those videos,” Wagner said. “I could feel her emotions.”
Watching someone else in her position being so open and honest about it inspired Wagner to start posting YouTube videos about her battle with the disease.
Wagner’s journey began during family weekend her freshman year when she found a bump just above her collarbone. Assuming it wasn’t anything serious, Wagner’s mother told her to wait at least a week to see if the bump would go away.
A week later, Wagner noticed the bump had grown. She traveled back to her hometown of Clarkston, Mich. to see her family doctor. The last weekend of October, 2010, the doctor told Wagner that instead of returning to school on Monday she would be seeing an oncologist to get the bump tested for cancer. By Nov. 18, she was officially diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin Lymphoma.
“In two or three weeks my life was turned upside down,” Wagner said.
Between her diagnosis and her first round of chemotherapy, Wagner posted her first video on her YouTube channel, lauren201002. Over the next two years, she kept viewers updated on her progress with everything from her first round of chemotherapy, her first new haircut and wig, to her being cancer free for a whole year. Documenting all the highs and lows of her journey was not only an outlet for Wagner, but it gave her extra encouragement, outside of what she received from her close friends and family.
“It gave me a network of support that I otherwise would not have had especially with (the videos) getting so popular,” Wagner said. “I was contacted by complete strangers from around the world, encouraging me and telling me how brave I was. Those positive words – you can’t imagine what that does to you.”
Wagner is now in her senior year at GVSU, studying social work. She is an active member of the GVSU community, acting as president of the student organization Colleges Against Cancer and a member of the Bachelor of Social Work Student Organization. She also works with two other organizations, the GVSU Cancer Warriors Network, which hosts events where individuals affected by cancer can find support in the GVSU community, and BRCAn’t Stop Me, which spreads awareness of a certain gene known to cause breast cancer in women.
Not all cancer fighters are willing to be as open as Wagner was, but her advice to students struggling with cancer or other issues is to have some kind of outlet.
“Even if it’s not posting it to YouTube publicly, I think it’s important to journal what’s happening at the moment because it helps you process out loud, or on paper, what you’re dealing with,” Wagner said. “I think it’s a really effective form of self-therapy that is very underrated.”
Some parents might be wary of their child being open with strangers while in such a fragile state, but considering the positive feedback, Wagner’s parents didn’t have much to worry about.
“Both of my parents were really proud of the fact that I chose to be so public and open and honest about my diagnosis,” Wagner said. “It could’ve been very easy for me to just wallow in my diagnosis, but instead I had this constant support and positive regard behind me. It was helping me each day, get through the day.”