Lauren Gamble had never considered herself to be superstitious. That is until Friday, August 13, 2021. That was the day she and her family received the heartbreaking news that the pain she had been feeling was in fact caused by a mass the size of a brick growing in her leg. She had bone cancer. For the 13-year-old competitive dancer and horseback rider, this was understandably devastating.
Her oncology team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital wasted no time. She immediately began an intensive course of chemotherapy with the hope to shrink the tumour prior to surgery. “It was really hard at the beginning to understand how this could be happening,” says Lauren. “Chemo made me feel awful and I hated being away from home and my dog.”
After several weeks of chemo, Lauren underwent an 18-hour surgery to remove the tumour and the bones in her leg that had been affected, replacing them with an artificial knee and titanium rods. The team used muscles from other areas of her body to reconstruct what was removed during the procedure. They also worked painstakingly to complete the vascular reconstruction to provide her with the best circulation and feeling possible.
“With lots of physiotherapy and occupational therapy, I’m getting my mobility back,” says Lauren. “And, I’m doing more rounds of chemo to kill off any remaining cancer cells that might be left in my body. We want to make sure it doesn’t come back.”
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Right from diagnosis, Lauren and her family have been very grateful to receive parts of her treatment through a first-in-Canada program known as Hospital at Home. Funded by donations to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, this service sends specially trained nurses to administer certain medications, chemotherapies and supportive therapies to patients in the comfort of their own homes. Beyond reducing the anxiety and time involved with traveling to hospital, Lauren feels she copes better both physically and mentally when her treatment takes place at home and she can have her puppy, Casper, beside her.
“Hospital at Home is truly a Godsend,” says Lauren’s mom, Lindsay. “Without it, we would have spent over 50 more nights in hospital. This program gave Lauren the will to survive and persevere through the terrible treatments. The familiarity of family meals, smells and her own bed were important. Even more essential was just the ability to “be” a teen surrounded by those she loves. I will forever be grateful
While the team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital delivers world-class care, the unfortunate reality is that current therapies can be incredibly taxing on children and their families. To help ease some hardship, community support is enabling specialists to provide a whole new level of family centred care through Hospital at Home – the first program of its kind for children in Canada. Learn more.