Matt Rogers, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Then ten years old, Laurel Simer was playing on an inflatable obstacle course when she tripped and hit her head. It was still hurting a few days later, so as a precaution, she got it checked out.
After a CAT scan and a visit to another doctor, the neurologist broke the news: Simer had a brain tumor.
“I honestly didn’t know what that meant,” she said. “My mom started crying, so I knew it couldn’t be good.”
Simer was diagnosed with Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, an extremely rare and aggressive cancer generally found in children. Over 90 percent diagnosed die within 18 months. Around five percent live past three years. There is no cure.
However, nearly 17 years later, as part miracle and part medical mystery, Simer’s tumor has not changed one bit. Though she was originally treated with Accutane, an Acne medication, within two years of diagnosis, she was taken off it and requires no medication to this day.
“It’s malignant,” Simer said. “It’s taking in sugars, it’s active. But it hasn’t grown.”
Throughout her battle, even early on, one thing remained constant for Simer, a native of Faribault, Minnesota; that one constant was hockey.
“After a few months, I was stable,” Simer said of her condition. “The doctors told me as long as I felt okay, I could keep playing.”
She continued her hockey career at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, a hockey-crazed boarding school in Minnesota where her mother taught. In all, the school has seen 62 former students drafted by NHL teams.
She played goalie for the school, and when the time came to choose colleges, hockey played a major role. While at UC, Simer made her mark on the women’s program and played for four years.
“Being on the team here, it was the best four years of my life,” she said.
As her career came to a close, Simer needed to complete an internship to graduate. She decided to complete it with UC’s Sports Information Department, assisting Gil Burgmaster.
Following that internship, Simer moved back to Minnesota. She was preparing to look for jobs in August of 2012 when she received a call from Burgmaster. The department had just been granted a Graduate Assistant position, and Burgmaster encouraged Simer to apply.
The rest is history, and last summer, she was promoted to full-time assistant SID, a position she currently holds.
“Laurel is extremely knowledgeable and has a great work ethic,” Burgmaster said. “She takes pride in her work, and I definitely think that comes from her time spent in previous roles as a student-athlete and a graduate assistant at UC.”
“Laurel was great with the program and her contribution after has been tremendous,” Dave Clausen, the UC women’s hockey head coach added. “She’s always supporting whatever program is out there and her enthusiasm carries over.”
Though the tumor is stable, Simer still heads to the National Institute of Health in Washington, D.C. once a year to check up on it.
Aware that she is one of the very few survivors of this deadly disease, Simer works to raise awareness. She said she gets numerous emails and Facebook messages from families fighting DIPG.
A recent one read: “I’ve been reading posts today on DIPG. I have prayed to find one person who has survived this monster. I found you. You give me hope and I pray for you to have continued health.”
Being someone’s inspiration, giving support, and working to fight this disease all motivate Simer on a daily basis.
“I figured there’s a reason I’m okay,” she said. “Getting these messages, it really reminds you that although what you’re doing might be small, it’s reaching people. It’s spreading awareness and giving hope. It’s helping people out.”
Featured Image; Laurel Simer, Assistant Sports Information Director. Photo by ucpioneers.com