Each year, Johnstown Magazine highlights some of the brave individuals who faced a breast cancer diagnosis and plowed their way through.
Lauren Laslo, 46, is committed to scheduling her yearly mammograms.
Her mother’s experience with cancer inspired her to have those consistent checkups.
Lauren gets emotional when she talks about losing her mother to uterine cancer.
She says her mother did not get checked regularly and had not had an exam in years. She says she started having symptoms at 60, but by the time it was diagnosed the cancer was the size of a small chicken. She passed away two years after diagnosis.
Lauren’s own battle with cancer started two years ago when she headed to her doctor’s office for what she thought would be another normal appointment.
She felt confident the results would be negative – just as they had been the year before.
But this time, things were different.
The mammogram detected something suspicious and in March of 2020, Lauren was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I didn’t realize how much in just one year things could change,” she says.
Her diagnosis was just two days after pandemic restrictions began.
“I had chemotherapy from April to August,” she recalls. “It was rough because I always thought I was superwoman, but going through chemotherapy felt like it was taking me down.”
She had a bilateral mastectomy in Windber and did self physical therapy to regain muscle strength in her arms. Although she felt down, she was actually accomplishing a lot.
Lauren, who has 18-year-old daughter and a 24-year-old son, says she waited until her hair started falling out to tell them about the cancer. “As parents we always try to shield our children,” she says. They supported her throughout her ordeal as did her husband, Jon.
Although the two were not married at the time, Jon was with her every step of the way. He maintained the home and helped with changing her tubes that needed to be drained, emptied and measured daily.
“He called himself ‘Mr. Belvedere,’” she says with a laugh.
Although he was not able to attend appointments with her, due to the pandemic restrictions, he still managed to make her feel special.
One magical moment stands out.
“I was bald, sick and in a night gown when he asked me to marry him,” she says.
Lauren is happily employed at Boulevard Grill where she says she received a lot of support. “My boss, my fellow employees and my customers were so great to me – bringing dinners, starting a Go Fund Me page, flowers. My boss and crew actually shaved their heads when I lost my hair,” she says.
Lauren gives thanks to Dr. Trudi Brown and Dr. Sheetal Higbee.
“All of the doctors are amazing.”
As of today, Lauren has been cancer free for six months.
She says she looks at life differently since her diagnosis.
“You think differently when your life is almost taken. A near-death experience makes you not want to sweat the little things.”
Lauren wants women of all ages to know how extremely important it is to make and keep annual exams.