Getting It All Back: Extracurricular Activities Return for Many Cancer Patients


After receiving care at Texas Children’s, it wasn’t long before Laurel Batchelder started back to school and became involved in her normal extracurricular activities.


Laurel is a healthy, happy 7-year old who is into tumbling, swimming, horseback riding and just being a normal girl.

You would never know she was diagnosed with cancer several years ago.

At the age of 3, Laurel began to complain that her stomach hurt very badly. “She was also running a fever for several days that would not respond to common medicines. Considering other symptoms she was having as well, her pediatrician suggested we take her to the hospital,” said her mom, Melissa. “Following an ultrasound, doctors discovered she had an active tumor in her abdomen that was the size of a softball. We learned that it was embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue tumor. They couldn’t do immediate surgery because it was touching several organs and wrapped around critical vessels. It was just too risky.”

After three months of chemotherapy, the size of the tumor had decreased and surgery was possible. After a successful surgery, Laurel began a series of follow-up appointments.
br>Laurel’s mother said that life was different for the family for a long time as they struggled to keep their young child healthy and protected, and also in good spirits. But it wasn’t long before Laurel started back to school and became involved in her normal extracurricular activities.

“During her treatment, we met people who were traveling from the Valley, Louisiana and Mexico. I don’t know what I would have done if we didn’t live here in Houston,” Melissa said. “I just feel blessed that we are so close to the absolute best care.”

As a way of saying thanks, Laurel and her parents have turned her birthday parties into opportunities for giving. Instead of accepting gifts, Laurel asks that those who attend give a toy, book or game that can be donated to Texas Children’s Child Life Department.