By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 3/12/16
When Lauren Shermer has to tell her students about dealing with adversity and living in the moment, they listen intently.
Shermer, a Criminal Justice professor at Widener University, was honored Friday night at the 6th Annual HEADstrong Foundation Lime Light Gala at Hilton Penn’s Landing with the prestigious Nicholas E. Colleluori Award. The award is presenting annually to a survivor demonstrating heroics and perseverance in the fight against cancer.
Shermer, of Cherry Hill, was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) five years ago. She continues to manage her cancer and even had a baby girl, Colbie – who will turn 3 next month – after doctors at Penn figured a way for her to conceive a child while stopping oral treatments for a year.
“As a college professor I am constantly telling my students inspirational quotes and lately I have been telling them to live in vision, not in your circumstances,” she told the hundreds of attendees. “I like this quote because it applies to everyone. lt acts as a reminder to have a goal to work for and not dwell on what might not be going right at the moment.
“I think this quote is particularly relevant to HEADstrong because their patient centered focus help patients do just that and it embodies Nick’s spirit of being relentless.”
Shermer said there is no cure for her cancer, but that in the past 10 years many advances have been made. She was content to live life with her husband Joe and continue to manage her cancer, but then she asked Penn doctors if it was possible for her to consider having a baby.
She had responded so well to targeted oral medications that chemo and radiation was not needed to keep her cancer under control. She went off her drugs for a year and gave birth to Colbie on April 19, 2013.
On Friday night, Colbie and Joe accompanied Shermer; Colbie even cane to the podium for her speech and thrilled the house with a few words.
“I am lucky,” said Shermer. “Despite being told by many that this disease meant I would never got to have a child, this team of doctors at Penn never said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ At that moment my vision changed from simply wanting to live to a vision of becoming a mom.
“I have the absolute pleasure of spending the last 2 and a half years as a mom to this amazing little girl.”
Shermer said she has learned to appreciate everything she has. After Colby was born, her cancer had worsened due to the lack of treatments, but her doctors’ plan worked and within six months she was back on track managing the disease. In the 5 years she has fougth the disease, she has continued to teach her regular load at Widener.
“I am lucky,” she said. “You’d never think I would be talking about having cancer and be able to use the word lucky, but I have come to realize luck is not getting what you want, it’s surviving things you don’t want.
“By that definition I am incredibly lucky. I have a supportive family and friends, doctors and people like you – you are helping me survive the thing I do not want and helped my vision change from simply wanting to live to becoming a mom and now to a new vision. That vision is a cure and what I really need to do is thank all of you.
“I also need to thank Nick for choosing to live in his vision, which led to the development of this wonderful organization; and thanks to the Colleluori family for continuing to live in his vision; and I thank all of you for your support for HEADstrong. Your support gives us hope that my vision of a new cure also someday will be my new circumstances.”
Shermer said she tells her students what she has to deal with.
“If I think it will impact them, I will tell them; they are adults and they deserve to know,” she said.
What advice does she have for people?
“Live life in the moment and and realize that you never know what someone else is going through,” she said. “You never know when things will change. I try not to dwell on anything small and I try to look forward.”
The event featured Marc Summers as Master of Ceremonies. Summers is a television personality, comedian, game show host, producer and talk show host, and is best known for hosting the Nickelodeon game show Double Dare, Unwrapped on Food Network, and is currently the executive producer of Restaurant: Impossible. He is a cancer survivor.
Additionally, long-time voice of the Philadelphia Flyers, recording artist, TV and film composer blood cancer survivor Lauren Hart; as well as voice of the Philadelphia Eagles, recording artist, songwriter and pianist Jessy Kyle served as co-chairs of the event.
The 6th Annual Lime Light Gala also honored Edward A. Stadtmauer, MD who serves as Chief of Hematologic Malignancies and Professor of Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Also, former Penn State lacrosse standout and pro football wide receiver Chris Hogan is the winner of the Relentless Award. Hogan was unable to attend because he was signing a free agent offer sheet with the New England Patriots.
Proceeds from the Lime Light Gala will support the expansion of Nick’s House™, a facility operated by the HEADstrong Foundation™ which provides complimentary extended lodging to families traveling to Philadelphia for cancer related treatment as well as the Nicholas E. Colleluori Lymphoma Research Fund at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of Stephen J. Schuster, MD.