About Lauren Cernuto

Lauren Cernuto was born on October 16, 1986 and was brought into this world by her loving parents, Anthony and Tina Cernuto. At this time she was welcomed by her two older siblings; her brother Anthony and her sister Jena (her youngest sister Nicole came 8 years later). She grew up in upstate New York, running outside in the leaves during the fall, playing in the snow in the winter, riding her bike in the spring, and swimming away like a fish in the summer! Her big Italian family provided Laurens life with an abundance of love, food, celebrations, food, 30+ cousins, food (this can go on forever), and all of the things one could wish for as a child. One of her favorite places to visit as a young child was “The happiest place in the world”; Walt Disney World. Lulu (Lauren’s nickname) and her family loved the sunshine state so much that they made the move down to Florida.


And that annual Disney tradition ran well into her teenage years where she excelled in high school with straight A’s, cheerleading on Varsity in high school, ran track and played basketball. Lauren had many friends in high school, she was a social butterfly who put a smile on everyone’s faces. A vibrant, caring, loving, outspoken, spunky, driven young lady who lived her life to the fullest. And most importantly, the way she wanted to.


Her focus is what led her to Florida State University in 2004. Where she studied Real Estate and Finance. She was also a member of Kappa Delta Sorority where her passion for charities really took off. Her time spent at FSU was some of the best times of her life. She made everlasting friendships, traveled, loved going to the football games, and really enjoyed all the perks a big school had to offer. After graduating in 2008, Lauren stayed in Tallahassee for a short time and started as an Assistant Property Manager at a local apartment complex. 


Not too long after, she received another opportunity to move to NYC and accepted a higher position as a Property Manager. She was very excited to move up North and live through the seasons. She kept herself busy by working out, hanging out with family, friends, and had the pleasure of living with her brother Anthony. She was working right outside the city in the day and then made her way into the Big Apple at night for some fun! Lauren loved being out and about in the company of her friends.


But Lauren was a mover, she never stayed in one place too long. A year later she got another opportunity to move to Atlanta, Georgia. It was an appealing place for her because she had lots of friends there, she got the best of all of the seasons living there, and it was a short plane ride back to New York or home to Florida when she wanted too. In Laurens eyes, it was the perfect place for her. She fell in love with being in ATL. She loved all that the city had to offer. From the Ponce De Leon Market, to the never ending festivals, The Ivy, Tin Lizzy’s, the huge parks, and she loved being around all of her friends and that made her the happiest girl in the world. She fell in love and out of love up there too, but no matter what obstacles she faced, Lauren always moved forward. 


After a few short years of being in Atlanta, Lulu was home for Thanksgiving in 2012 and she began to complain about headaches. She also complained about being extra emotional and just thought it was the normal stresses of young adult life. She made her way back to Atlanta, where a few weeks later she was on the couch watching a movie with her boyfriend and she had a grand mal seizure. Her boyfriend called 911 and Lauren woke up to Medics hovering above her. She had no idea what just happened. They rushed her to Emory Hospital, ran all the necessary tests and there it was, a grade 3 Glioblastoma. Lauren’s world forever changed that night. 


Her entire family was there the next day and her emergency surgery was scheduled for December 3, 2012. With Gods will and the army of prayers, Laurens surgery was a success. She could not walk or talk right after surgery but with hard work and dedication she regained everything in record time. She continued to heal and blew through radiation and chemo. She was beating the odds. She was a warrior, a fighter, a hero. The survival rate for a Glioblastoma is anywhere from 8-15 months and Lauren was doing great and blew past that too. She was adjusting to the side effects one has when you have a craniotomy, adjusting to being on seizure medication, but overall doing great. 


Lauren’s parents moved to Atlanta with her and she did her recovery alongside Emory hospital. She eventually moved home to Florida for a short time and then when she was ready to make the move back to Atlanta. It was where her heart was, and it was also by her doctors and her hospital, so it did make sense because she had follow up scans every 3-4 months. Emory is one of the top places in the United States for brain tumors so she was fortunate to be receiving great care there. 


After a few years of being in Atlanta, everything was in good standings with Lauren’s health. Her scans were good. The seizure medication made her tired but she was used to that side effect by now. She was back in the swing of things; going to church, bible study, hanging out with friends, and walking in every park in Atlanta that she could find. She even started a fundraiser called the Brain Freeze Challenge to raise awareness about brain tumors. But then, in true Lauren fashion,  she decided she needed a change. In early 2018, Lauren then moved to Miami with her sister Jena. She moved herself into her sister’s one bedroom apartment, exchanged a queen bed for two twin size beds, shared two small closets, one bathroom, and they roomed like when they were kids again. It was not an idle situation but they made it work to the best of their abilities (they had “sisterly love”, which means that they had lots of meaningless arguments but they got over them quickly). Lauren had friends in every city she moved to, so she reunited with some friends in Miami, worked, and enjoyed the sunshine state.


It was a weekday, and it happened to be Lauren’s birthday. She loved her Orange Theory class after a long day and decided to join a class. In the middle of the class, Lauren felt a bit dizzy so she got off the treadmill, sat down, and she started slurring her words. She was having a focal seizure. She called her sister and Jena picked her up and took her to the hospital to get checked out. They spent the rest of the night in the ER and as they waited for test results, they sang happy birthday with a mini cupcake from the hospital bed that night. 


After that, things were okay and so Lauren, her sisters, and their cousin Jessica decided to take a trip around the world! They visited Paris, Thailand, and London.  She visited her nieces in New York, attended a family wedding, and went on a cousin’s ski trip. Nothing was stopping her from living everyday to the fullest! She believed that you should be braver than you think, stronger than you are, and that you were loved more than you know. That was the kind of mindset Lulu lived with. 


For months after that Lauren took it easy and had scans more frequently. Periodic scans and doctors visits were routine by this point and the doctors were watching her closely, and nothing was showing up. And once again, early in 2019, Lauren wanted to move back to Atlanta again! It was another adventure for Lulu, starting to work from home and living the life she wanted to live. She was once again thriving, and spending time with her friends, flying to be with her family for special occasions, and not letting her illness consume her life in any way. 


On July 4 2019, Lauren was spending the fourth of July with her friend Danielle who came to visit her in Georgia from Florida. They spent the whole day out and about, enjoying the holiday in all its glory. After a long day, Lauren just got out of the shower, sat on the couch in her robe, and then she had another seizure. Her friend held her and was doing her best to comfort her in that moment of despair, and because it was another focal seizure, Lauren was very much alert and aware of what was going on around her. Lulu proceeded to tell her friend, “ You are doing it wrong Danielle, just lay me on my side, don’t hold me”. She always found a way to make people laugh, she was not shy to tell you exactly what she wanted or if you were doing something wrong. Danielle has known her for 15+ years at this time and just was happy to hear her speak. Lauren was brought to the hospital, tests were ordered, and the scans showed a regrowth. 


Almost six years after Lauren’s first surgery, and the doctors scheduled for her second craniotomy to remove the mass in her brain on July 15, 2019. Her surgery was performed once again at Emory Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. The surgery was another success. At this point, Lauren has already beat the odds many times over, she was a fighter, a survivor and she proved herself stronger than most. Her recovery this time was quicker this time. She could walk and her speech was ok. Lauren had daily therapies to help her recover and then by the end of August 2019, off to Texas for Proton Therapy. Most people do not receive radiation twice in their lives for multiple reasons. But her doctors thought this would be the best form of therapy in her case. Lauren and her parents lived in Texas for 8 weeks while Lauren received her treatment. At the completion of treatments Lauren rang that treatment bell so hard that the walls shook! She was so proud to finish therapy and move onto the next phase of her life. 


And so she did, the rest of 2019 she spent time with the ones she loved. She was always surrounded by so many people who loved and cared for her in every way. Her support system at home was so strong and she knew that everything was being done in her life to help her live her best life. Laurens faith in God was always present. She knew that the lord was always by her side and to fear not for the lord had a plan especially for her. Her faith was always so present in her life and she held tight to her faith every day. 


As we all know 2020 was not anyones year to say the least. This pandemic has made all aspects of life different in so many ways. And Lauren was just like everyone else, just going through the motions, taking it day by day. Her periodic MRI was done in April and her results came back good. Her bloodwork came back good. And then out of nowhere the tumor was back for the third time. Almost a year later, after all of the chemotherapy and treatments,  it was heartbreakingly back. But Lulu didn’t say a word, she never complained.


On June 5, 2020 Lauren had her third craniotomy. This time in Texas at MD Anderson, another one of the best places that deal with brain tumors. She was lucky that her mother Tina was permitted to stay with her in the hospital to care for her; because of Covid-19, the rules and guidelines have changed around the country, banning anyone but the patient to enter beyond the emergency room doors. And yet again, Lulu’s surgery was yet again a success. But this time her speech was not coming back as quickly as the last time she had surgery. Per usual, all therapies started right away. Her mom, dad, and sister Jena stayed with her throughout her recovery in an air bnb for 2 weeks before she was released from hospital care and allowed to travel back home to Florida. When they made it home from the long drive home, Lauren was running a fever. Being in any hospital at this time was concerning because of the Covid-19 pandemic, all hospitals were full of people sick with this illness. So taking Lauren to get checked out immediately was important because she was scheduled to start chemo the next day and Covid-19 would interfere and could possibly be a deadly combination. Laurens test result came back positive. This setback delayed her chemo treatment by a month, but her doctors assured her that she would start chemo the day she tested negative, and she did. At the end of July 2020, she was started back on CCNU (chemotherapy) and another drug called Lomustina. A month later they noticed it helping one part of her brain but not the other. Her doctors changed up her medication from Chemotherapy to an Inhibitor to try and she if that would add any additional benefits.


Now it’s October, Lauren’s birthday month. She was always that person who absolutely enjoyed every ounce of her birthday. And the year before did not go as planned because of a seizure, so this birthday her family made it over the top for her. Her sister Jena made her one of those fancy letter cakes with all of the amazing toppings. Her friend Danielle was in town to celebrate too! They dressed for a tea party and visited a very posh tea polar in town, and took a stroll down the avenue of downtown, and ended the night with a second cake and blowing out her birthday candles. Her smile that day was lighting up the room, she was overjoyed with having the most perfect birthday she could have ever hoped for during one of the most crazy years yet. 


Another month goes by and the Inhibitor showed no improvements for Lauren. She feels okay; she has a little weakness in her leg when she is walking but she pushes on with doing her daily routines of different therapies and continues long walks around the neighborhood where she lives. Christmas in the Cernuto household has always been one of the best times of the year because Laurens family has a real life Santa Clause (her mother) who always goes above and beyond to make the holiday special. And Christmas 2020 was no different for Lulu, from all of the courses of food to the most amazing (and abundance of) presents, Lauren was always grateful for that very special day every year. 


……and then on New Years Eve,  Lauren had a very long and strenuous seizure, it lasted a little more than 12 minutes and she continued to tremor on her way to the hospital. Which when it actually stopped, it was about an hour from start to finish. She was admitted into the hospital and all of the standard tests were administered. Her doctors called with the results a few days later and let Lauren know that it was time to apply for clinical trials of chemotherapies because what she was on stopped working.  Lauren’s family worked on finding her the best trials that she would qualify for, calling every outlet they could in a matter of a few days. Lauren continued to have a few small seizures from NYE until now so the doctors upped her medications to prevent the seizures. With her family by her side, they were on the road the next day to North Carolina to meet a doctor at Duke University that had a medicine that could help. 


Lauren was lethargic from the additional medication. She was sleeping a lot more lately than usual but she was still very much alert to do basic daily things like eating normally, walking and using the restroom with assistance. She was restless at bedtime and woke up to use the restroom multiple times a night but her doctors would check her blood work and vitals, and everything looked just fine. The meeting with the Doctor went okay and he was willing to give her the medication. On the way home from North Carolina, Lauren had another focal seizure. And again when the paramedics checked her out, everything was fine. The medics ask very general questions like “What is your name?”, “What is today’s date?”And Lauren was also asked “Who is the president?” She answered “Donald Trump”. And then she corrected herself and said “ Let me correct myself, the new President is Joe Biden”. So she passed the test! 


The new medicine was ordered and ready to arrive in a short few days. Lauren continued to have small focal seizures and every time the paramedics checked her out and her vitals were great, the EKG was fine, and Lauren was just still very tired. On February 10, 2020 Lauren was resting on the couch in the company of her family. She just had a seizure that night and she was in a deep and heavy sleep…. Lauren stopped breathing, her family performed CPR until the paramedics came to relieve them, they got her breathing and her pulse was strong, she was rushed to the local Hospital. And surrounded by her entire family Lauren took her last breath on the early morning of February 11th, 2020.


No one knows why God chose to take her away so soon, but Lauren definitely left this earth in her way, the way she wanted to. She was ready to give herself to the lord and made peace with herself. Saying Lauren was strong, is an understatement. Almost 9 years of being ill with this dreadful sickness, 3 craniotomy’s, radiation 2 times, and about well into the 100,000’s of pills and Lauren NEVER COMPLAINED. She stayed positive and stuck to her faith and prayer. When she had a rough day, she rested. And on the good days she lived every second to the fullest. She understood the importance of her time here on earth and she did exactly what she wanted. Even her own mother couldn’t convince her otherwise. 


She always wanted to give back. It was something she was passionate about. She raised money multiple times for brain cancer research and brain tumor awareness. Her drive was unparalleled and her efforts were always above and beyond. That was the competitive side to her, always wanting to succeed in everything she did. Not too long ago, she spoke about how there needs to be more organizations that help people with the hardships they will face fighting this horrible illness. Lauren never got around to start her own organization and this is why The Lulu Fund has been created. To fulfill Lulu’s wish to help others in need. This fund is so much more than just a way to help others; it will be a lifeline, some peace of mind, a lessened burden for people who need a helping hand. The Lulu Fund will be Lauren’s legacy, it will always be a gift from the girl who did not lose to brain cancer but from the girl who’s inspiring story will encourage others to continue to live a positive fulfilling life.