Hi, I’m Laken

My name is Laken, and I learned to fight when I was 11 years old.

On the evening of February 27th, I was taken by ambulance to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, after doctors found a plum-sized tumor in my brain.

The next morning, I was being prepped for emergency surgery.  Doctor after doctor came into my room to explain to me what was about to happen.  I don’t think they thought I understood.

But all I would say to them was …  Just get this thing out of me!

And they did.  All of it!  (Thank you, Dr. Albert.)

When I woke up from surgery, I felt awful.  I had been throwing up for a month before doctors paid attention to my mom’s gut instinct, and finally found the tumor.  And while I had gotten used to the throwing up, now I couldn’t see.  And it scared me.  A lot.

But my mom was there by me the whole time, and promised me that everything was going to be ok.  And I believed her.

The first couple of days of recovery were so hard.  My head hurt so much from the 2 incisions, that I would scream out in pain.  My vision was returning, but I couldn’t focus, and it made me really nauseous to try.

My parents and I spent a lot of time talking in those first couple of days after my surgery about choosing how I want to recover, and how I want to get through the treatment ahead.

How it would be perfectly normal to focus on myself.  My pain.  My fear.  My sacrifices.  My hair!

But I could also choose to spend the year ahead in radiation and chemotherapy focusing on others.  Thinking about others.  Praying for others.  Even serving others.  Having an “attitude of gratitude,” and using this experience to encourage people who are also going through a difficult (or worse) time in their own life.

I spent a lot of time in bed asking God … What can I possibly do?  I’m only 11.

And one morning, it hit me.  I love to write.  And no matter how badly I feel, I can always pick up my pen, and share some words of appreciation, or encouragement, or recognition, or even condolence, with someone who is going through a tough time themself.

When I shared the idea with my mom, she said …  “Letters from Laken.”

And I said, yes.  Letters from Laken!

I started making a list in my head of all of the people who had been involved (so far) in saving my life.  The surgeon.  The ICU nurses.

Then a list of the people who had helped my parents by bringing meals and donating to help them cover the travel expenses.  By making my 12th birthday party (a month to the day of my ambulance ride to Little Rock) amazing.

My mom started sharing stories with me about other families that are going through the same things we are.  Some without any hope at all.

And I thought … I could write a letter a day, and never run out of opportunities.

So that’s what I am doing.

On May 13th, the day after I finish my first 6 weeks of proton radiation therapy in Dallas, I will begin dropping handwritten letters into my mailbox.  Letters of appreciation.  Letters of encouragement.  Letters of condolence.  Letters of celebration.

And I will continue writing at least one letter a day, for the rest of my life.

Letters from Laken.

My Mission

To change the world with hope and encouragement … one letter at a time.