Lauren Smith ’20 inspires peers through resilience, spirit

Yeukai Zimbwa

More stories from Yeukai Zimbwa


In August, Lauren Smith ’20 was diagnosed with stage 2A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Smith’s treatment consists of four rounds of 21 day cycles of chemotherapy during which she moves back and forth from her home and the hospital.

However, Smith remains the radiant spirit that the class of 2020, and the entire community, has grown to know and love. She radiates a light that has not stopped shining since the day of her diagnosis. “It doesn’t have to be such a dark thing for people to think about,” Smith says. “It isn’t [a dark thing] for me, and it’s pretty amazing what it’s allowed me to do.”

Though Smith is not regularly religious, after she first found out about her illness, she went to Mass. When the priest happened to mention pediatric cancer during the service, Smith had a moment of genuine belief in a higher power. Since then, she has known that she’s not alone in her journey.

Long before her diagnosis, Smith felt that she was “meant to endure something that would change [her] dramatically.” Smith knew she was “capable of doing this,” whatever it may be.

Upon her diagnosis, her subconscious feeling was confirmed, translating into an unflinching belief in her resilience.

Smith derives confidence from her support system, which consists of her family, friends, and teammates. “If [she needs] a laugh, if [she needs] a good cookie, people will spring to help.”

Over the past few months Smith’s friends and family have provided whatever she needs to feel comfortable and supported. Smith considers her mom to be her “number one supporter.” In addition, she’s grown closer to her two brothers Michael Smith ’17 and Ryan Smith ’18 over the course of her treatment.

Blake Girls’ Soccer poses in yellow #LaurenStrong shirts

On October 16, Smith’s teammates from Blake Girls’ Soccer made and wore yellow t-shirts to support Smith’s recovery. Smith’s closest friends sport yellow Lokai bracelets as a sign of support and friendship. Yellow is the representative color for pediatric cancer, and also happens to be Smith’s favorite color, which she sees as “a funny coincidence.”

Beyond gifts, Smith’s support system allows her to feel comfortable expressing emotion. Despite her positive attitude, Smith’s friends and family tell her that “[she] can let go, and it doesn’t always need to be smiles.”

Pia Phillips ’18 was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2014, and has given Smith an important perspective on her treatment. When she lost her hair, she remembers calling Phillips and talking through her feelings. On losing her hair, Smith says, “It was probably the worst part of the whole thing…it was the only time that I was like, ‘Why me?'” However, the experience was made easier by the support of Phillips, someone who could relate firsthand to Smith’s experiences.

In this environment, Smith knows she won’t face judgement from Phillips. “I’m not the only person to go through this,” says Smith. “I have so many people around me.” Smith endearingly calls Phillips her “personal cancer cheat sheet.”

With the help of the endless love and support that surrounds her, Smith has managed to stay optimistic throughout the emotional and physical turmoil of her exhausting treatment.

Smith observes that her illness has given her the opportunities to to grow closer to her friends and family in new and more profound ways.

I have so many people around me,” Smith says. “There are so many good things that are happening to me now too.” Smith notes that it can be easy to take her family and friends for granted, yet she remains objective as to the situations of others. She reflects, “I’m not the only person to go through this.”