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Ailing Whitlow student performs in talent show
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Lauren Morris. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

CUMMING -- One Forsyth County school is rallying behind a student battling an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Lauren Morris, a fifth-grader at Whitlow Elementary, has not attended classes this year while she undergoes a year-long chemo and radiation treatment cycle. But she played piano in the school talent show on Feb. 7 at Forsyth Central High.

Reaching her goal to play in the show was a testament to her perseverance, said Heidi Avila, a school nurse at Whitlow.

Morris visited her math class the Wednesday before the show. She left about 12:30 p.m. and was in chemo at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta by 5 p.m. An hour later, Avila said, she was in the hospital’s playroom doing crafts.

Avila said Morris went home Feb. 6 and was ready to play the next day.

“It’s amazing what she’s going through and her fight to continue living a normal life,” Avila said.

Morris was diagnosed last March with an “extremely aggressive” Atypical Teratoid/Rhaboid brain tumor. It was successfully removed shortly after doctors discovered it, but because of the tumor’s aggressive nature, they had her undergo chemo for a year. The session on Feb. 5 was her fourth to last.

“She’s been in the hospital more than out,” Avila said. “She has an amazing spirit, even in the hospital. She designed her own T-shirt because she wanted to support other children who have cancer.”

She has not skipped a beat in school, either, although she cannot physically attend class.

“As sick as she is with fevers and blood transfusions, she came in and watched a math lesson, and she had already taken the test. So she’s ahead of her class.”

Time will tell how her body responds to the cancer and treatments long term, Avila said, but for now she is all clear.

In the meantime, her community continues to support her.

“She is just a champion and a fighter,” said Jennifer Vanderbunt, an assistant principal at Whitlow.

Her neighborhood held a tennis fundraiser. The Whitlow staff designed T-shirts to raise money for her family. They surprised her by decorating her hospital room during Christmas, hanging light bulbs with notes written by her classmates.