Student fights against cancer, helps raise awareness through St. Baldrick’s


Bardstown junior Lauren Osbourne readies herself for the Paul Mitchell beautician’s scissors to glide through her hair. Osbourne, a cancer survivor herself and mentor for girls with cancer, donated inches of hair during the fifth annual Saint Baldrick’s head shaving event at Nick Deans Field on Saturday. (Tyler Essary/HERALD)

Taylor Harrison

When Lauren Osbourne was 6 months old, she was diagnosed with liver cancer. Although she was too young to even remember her treatment, she went through six months of chemotherapy.

“It was hard on my parents,” Osbourne, a Bardstown sophomore, said. “They didn’t know if I was going to make it at first.”

What her family didn’t find out until later was that her cancer was the result of a gene she has that comes from her mother’s side of her family. When she was 17 years old, she was diagnosed with another type of cancer in early 2012 that was also connected to the gene, but this time it was colon cancer.

“It definitely was an eye-opener the second time,” Osbourne said. “I didn’t really remember going through it when I was younger. I was always really curious of what I did go through the first time.”

She again had to go through six months of chemotherapy and was in remission by November 2012. Now, Osbourne does what she can to fight against childhood cancer. 

On Saturday, she participated in WKU’s annual St. Baldrick’s event and donated her hair. St. Baldrick’s funds research to help find a cure for childhood cancer. 

“It feels good that I had the decision to do it instead of it falling out,” Osbourne said after getting her hair cut. 

Bardstown sophomore Ashley Gamlin, who went to high school with Osbourne, also got her hair cut at St. Baldrick’s on Saturday. She said she did it not only to support Osbourne, her best friend, but others she has known who had cancer. 

“So I just thought it would show support to them and everyone else who is fighting this battle,” Gamlin said. 

Osbourne said she decided to donate her hair for both of her grandfathers — one who died of lung cancer and one who has brain cancer — and for 7-year-old Miley Hodge, who has an aggressive type of bone cancer.

Osbourne heard about Miley by watching the news in her hometown. There, she saw a story about a prom that had been thrown for Miley.  

“That’s when I had just finished chemo,” Osbourne said.

Osbourne attended Bellarmine University in Louisville as a freshman because she had to go to college close to her doctors at the time. While going to school there, she was involved in Relay for Life, an organization that raises money for cancer research, and through that, she met Miley.

Osbourne said she thinks Miley likes having her in her life because she understands what Miley’s going through.

“She would ask me if her hair was going to grow back like mine,” Osbourne said.

She remembered one time in particular when Miley would not take her medicine for her father. She would take it in front of just Osbourne.

“I put her on my lap and kept telling her it was going to be okay,” Osbourne said. “It’s just so hard…she doesn’t quite understand what she’s going through. She knows it has taken a lot away, like she can’t ride her bike.”

But Osbourne said Miley stays really positive. 

“Kids really are more humble,” Osbourne said.

Miley had to be in the hospital for a few weeks recently, and when she got to go home “she was all smiles,” Osbourne said, even though Miley had to continue to use a feeding tube.

Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Miley was able to meet the celebrity who inspired her name, Miley Cyrus. There is now a campaign on Twitter to get Justin Bieber to meet Miley: #justinmeetmiley. Bieber did post a video that directly addressed Miley, saying he was praying for her and telling her to stay strong.

Bert Woodrome, Miley’s father, said having Lauren in her life really helps Miley.

“Lauren can relate, and Miley can relate, and that’s what this whole thing’s about,” Woodrome said. “It gives her a little bit of hope.” 

While they don’t get to see each other that often, Woodrome said it’s important that Miley has a friend and a female role model. 

“She clings to that and she loves it,” he said.