La Salle’s Courageous Senior Lauren Marie Valdes
Selected as Finalist for the 2012 Tournament of Roses Rose Court
By Terry Miler
La Salle senior Lauren Valdes was introduced to the media last Thursday along with 34 other Rose Court hopefuls.
As she approached the steps for the group photo at Tournament House Thursday afternoon, one couldn’t help but notice Valdes’ infectious smile. Standing in the front row with 34 other Royal Court hopeful teenage women, Valdes was the epitome of confidence and character as well as beauty. It was only on closer inspection one could see that she had a prosthetic right leg.
Diagnosed with cancer at start of her freshman year, Lauren Valdes 17, has spent over 100 nights collectively in Children’s Hospital for various chemotherapy treatments and surgeries over an 18 month period.
Valdes has played soccer since age 2 and had hopes of playing on the Lancer Varsity team and competing in CIF games.
After surgery she did not want to let cancer change her life, but had to adapt to some stares and “strange and rude reactions” by others. She found a special, caring community with the community of La Salle High School…where she was accepted as a bright individual with enormous courage, convictions and awareness of human spirit at an early stage in her life
Surgeons at Children’s Hospital had told her that she had the option of trying to save her lower right foot and lower leg, but would end up with limp and be flat footed.
Valdes wanted to play soccer again, and wear 4″ high heels and just be a teenager woman.,
She initially thought the pain in her ankle was from soccer, but after months of not getting better an MRI confirmed their fears. “I just didn’t want to be defeated. I didn’t want to be just sick. I was, but I had to define who I was. I couldn’t lose this fight” Valdes told her friends and family.
The prosthesis she now has will allow her to play soccer and other activities according to her doctors. She still has to tell her brain how to walk and climb stairs, but is getting “better and is starting to play soccer again.” According to John Blackstock of La Salle High School.
Valdes tried to keep the loss of her foot a secret for a long time. She always wore pants, leotards, yoga leggings according to John Blackstock.
She ran at a fundraiser almost two years ago in sweat pants. “I was a speaker that night. When I told the audience I was a cancer survivor and my lower leg had been amputated, a girl called out ‘You kicked my butt this morning, not fair!’
“I just didn’t want to be judged, but I needed to get on with my life.” After this evening, Valdes started wearing dresses again. Her confidence had returned.
Her father said, “She was never disheartened. She never felt like a victim or said ‘why me?’ Ever! She has always been positive and tried to help others at Children’s Hospital stay positive.”
Lauren Valdes recalled how hard it was to stay positive. She said that after months of seeing some of these kids and getting to know them in the hospital… “ all of a sudden, I would show up and they were gone.
“This has changed me, of course. Some of my old friends want the old me back, but I’m just not that concerned anymore if the color of a dress is not quite right or this boy or that didn’t call me. My priorities have changed.” Valdes said.
In 2009 Valdes saw the Rose Court when she was a patient in Children’s Hospital LA, and saw how excited and happy the court and queen made the young cancer patients. She was very excited too. Valdes thought the Princesses were “so kind and beautiful.” Since that visit by the Royal Court to Children’s Hospital in 2009, Valdes has aspired to be a member of the court.
So when she was selected as one of the final 35 she said “I’m absolute thrilled to be in the final group.”
Valdez is now a spokesperson for CHLA and has personally raised over $100,000 for cancer causes in the last 2 years alone, one of which was ‘Rally for Kids.’
The exceptional teenager Valdes said “You don’t need to be perfect to be beautiful. “You do not have to let cancer beat you.”
When she graduates from La Salle she hopes to go to USC, UCLA or LMU. (or perhaps UC Santa Barbara).
She wants to stay sort of close to home because as her family has been such a great source of support. Valdes has a 15 year old sister at Mayfield and lives in Pasadena with her parents.
In addition to all her other talents and ambitions Valdes completed an internship in New York City with a fashion designer. She hopes to major in communications and marketing and work in the fashion industry. Additionally Valdes truly enjoys public speaking.
Editor’s note: We are happy to report Lauren Valdes has had no signs of cancer for the past two years.
A very special thank you to La Salle High School’s tireless John Blackstock for helping us compile this story on this exceptional young woman.