High School Football

Tates Creek junior donates hair | VIDEO

Last week, Lauren Weyl was a typical teenager with a typical teenager's worries, like keeping up with her reading assignments in English and figuring out algebra II.

Then Lauren's world turned upside down.

The Tates Creek High School junior was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

"I was a little shocked," Lauren said. "But I couldn't really be upset, because they said it's treatable and curable, and they caught it in time."

Lauren's positive outlook goes beyond her personal well-being. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month so, with the help of family, friends and school administrators, Lauren is spreading the word that her type of cancer "doesn't just happen to older women.

"It happens to 16-year-olds like me, too."

Thinking of others is part of Lauren's character.

A few months ago, long before she knew she had cancer, Lauren decided to grow her hair long so she could cut it and donate it to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children who have medical hair loss.

When Lauren found out she would probably lose her hair when she starts chemotherapy later this month, she and her friends had an idea: Cut her hair for Locks of Love, and do it in a setting that would amplify awareness of ovarian cancer.

Tates Creek Athletics Director Joe Ruddell and football coach Mike Harmon helped arrange for Lauren to have her hair cut at halftime of the Commodores' home football game with Paul Laurence Dunbar on Friday night.

"It's amazing how all of this has come together in a few days," said John Weyl, Lauren's dad. "There's been a groundswell of support. It's taken on a life of its own.

"We're just so proud of Lauren and how she's handled all of this."

John and Tracey Weyl were blindsided by the news that their daughter had cancer.

Dr. Christopher DeSimone of the University of Kentucky's Markey Cancer Center said "it's not common, but not uncommon" for teenagers to get ovarian cancer. They usually have germ-cell tumors, and older women usually have epithelial-cell tumors.

Germ-cell malignancies have a much higher cure rate.

Lauren, who played volleyball at Tates Creek as a freshman and sophomore, was at a practice in June when she called her dad and told him she was having abdominal pain.

They went to the hospital, and tests showed that something had ruptured in her left ovary. Doctors thought it was a cyst. Pathology tests were negative for cancer.

Lauren was fine until she started feeling abdominal pain again on Sept. 9. The next day, she had a large tumor (30 by 35 centimeters) and her left ovary removed.

After the laparoscopic surgery, Lauren's parents received the diagnosis: stage 2 ovarian cancer.

"When the surgeon started to talk, the only words I heard were 'malignant, chemotherapy, radiation,' " John said.

"After that, my brain checked out. Hearing something like that about my teenage daughter ... I was literally in a state of shock."

Tracey, a nurse's assistant, was better able to process the news.

"I was able to hold it together and really pay attention," she said.

Lauren wasn't told until the next day, Sept. 11, that she had cancer.

She was unfazed.

"I haven't really surprised myself the way I've handled all this, because my friends always tell me I'm a strong person," Lauren said. "It's been a lot harder on my parents than it's been on me."

The support of her friends, especially Lily Sauteben, Arynn Greenfield and Ashley Bugg, has been a big help.

They've even made teal-colored bracelets and ribbons. (Teal is the color of ovarian cancer awareness.)

Tealtoes.org is a Web site that encourages people to promote awareness by painting their toenails teal. The volleyball teams at Tates Creek and Lexington Catholic have done so in support of Lauren, who got her toenails painted teal on Wednesday.

When Lauren gets her hair cut Friday night, some of her classmates, including Craig Calvert and Alex Saunders, will get shorn, too.

Her friends have also kept her company at home, bringing balloons and flowers. One even wrote her a song.

"She has an incredible group of friends," Tracey Weyl said. "They're so mature and wonderful.

"And I have to say that Lauren is an amazing teenager. I'm still in awe that she's embraced this like she has. She's been very inspirational."

John Weyl said the "next few months aren't going to be easy, but Lauren has already shown she's ready for whatever comes her way."

No doubt about that.

"I told my dad, I'm not afraid of cancer; it should be afraid of me," Lauren said.