A Walk Down Memory Lane

An old friend reached out yesterday (don’t you love when that happens?) and she was asking for help with a UCLA application. She wanted some inspiration for writing her admission letters and in the process I pulled up my two essays to UCLA. It was a nice little walk down memory lane and I thought I’d share. So here’s a little glimpse at me back when I was a hopeful senior in high school…having no idea that I would be at UCLA or that I would have a blog about happiness. It’s amazing where three years can take you! Here it is–the prompt was asking how I handled a challenge in my life. Here is what I had to say:

Death knocked on my family’s door when I was two. My mom was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, and nearly died because her doctor misdiagnosed her for over two years. My aunt and grandma would also hear the haunting words, “You have cancer”. Thankfully, these three women are courageous survivors, but cancer has left a scar that goes deeper than the skin: fear. After my family was tested at the UCLA medical center for the genes BRCA 1 and 2, I discovered that I may have an 80% chance of developing breast cancer. This is a daunting statistic, but I have had something positive emerge from it. I have learned to embrace each day with gratitude and to express love for others on a regular basis because whether it is cancer or another end, life is a precious and fleeting gift.

We have celebrated this gift at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life for the past six years. Relay for Life, a fundraiser for cancer research and prevention, is a community event that promotes celebrating, remembering, and fighting back. I have introduced over 1,000 students to the organization by speaking across California at Relay for Life events and personally raising over $13,000 in the past two years. I feel blessed to share the gift of service with my peers by leading them on our local team, the California Stars. I am also extremely grateful to walk beside my mother, grandmother, and aunt during the Survivor’s Lap to honor their victory over cancer.

As each year passes, I have raised more money and gathered more people in the fight against cancer. This year was incredible; I will never forget the moment when I heard the news that our team had won. The California Stars was announced as the top fundraising team with over $23,000. Hearing our names called was not just an accomplishment, but in many ways, a life defining, all encompassing moment. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I hugged my mom. This final amount was a battle cry against the disease that had once tried to kill her. We had won, and cancer had lost.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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