“I learned I’m a strong person…I learned if I can (beat cancer), I can do anything.” This quote comes from our 13th recipient, Lauren Dawida from Ohioville, PA. Lauren was a 16 year old Western Beaver High School student when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. She had suffered from months of continuous illnesses including anemia and pneumonia with extreme fatigue and shortness of breath when her chest x-ray images revealed a mass. It was the size of her heart actually pushing against her own heart. In addition smaller masses were found on her neck and clavicle. As a gymnast and member of the volleyball team she knew all too well how to stay strong and focus intently on the end results of any goal. It wasn’t any different with her illness; she stayed strong through her two months of chemotherapy and battled her difficult fight with cancer.
Lauren is a cancer survivor. Because her cancer is in remission she has been able to continue with life and to study to become an air traffic controller. She has been able to fly solo plane flights as part of her program. And she has been able to enjoy a weekend trip to Pittsburgh with her family as her sporting experience with the John Challis Courage for Life Foundation.
On October 19, 2013, Lauren and her family were driven by limousine to the city of Pittsburgh where they attended a Pittsburgh Steelers pregame practice. Here they toured the Steelers locker room, front office, draft room as well as the historic Super Bowl trophy room. Many autographs were signed and many pictures were taken with Lauren and Steeler players. She posed with Brett Keisel, Ike Taylor, Maurkice Pouncey, Shaun Suisham and Mike Tomlin. But it was Troy Polamalu who truly made her day and wish complete with smiles, hugs, photos and an autographed jersey.
The family spent time in Pittsburgh at eateries and a Just Ducky Tour before taking in additional sights from Mt. Washington. The next day Lauren and her family watched the Steelers defeat the Baltimore Ravens from perfect end zone seats at Heinz Field. This had been Lauren’s sporting experience choice as she had never been to a Steelers game.
The Steelers won the game. The John Challis Courage for Life Foundation won by providing, yet again, a recipient many memories to last a lifetime. And Lauren has won the fight against cancer – the biggest WIN of all – and as a result has been given the opportunity to fly solo.