Dickinson High School senior Lauren Jorda kept asking her family to get another dog, especially since their lab died a couple of summers ago. It didn’t happen, and then she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 17.That’s when Make-A-Wish created their magic.
Lauren, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy at Sanford Health in Dickinson, remembers the night of the Wish Reveal.
During hunting season, the Jorda family goes out to the Lefor KC’s annual fish and steak fry. This year it was Nov. 10.
“A lot of my family is usually there… everyone is hunting for deer, and then an aunt and uncle from Hettinger also came down because they were at a bull sale in Dickinson.”
Even her siblings Mariah and Cameron arrived from the Grand Forks where they are enrolled at the University of North Dakota.
“I was visiting with my family and not really paying attention to what was going on. Kelly Braun was up in front and he started talking, and of course, I didn’t put two and two together. He said there’s a puppy that’s lost, it’s white and black and it’s outside. Then he said Finley might be his name. That’s when I looked at my dad. I kind of stood up.. No way! I walked up and Finley was there with the whole Make-A-Wish crew.. It was unbelievable, we absolutely had no clue!”
Tom said the timing for getting a dog was perfect.
“It was at a time when it meant so much to her… the way the arrangements were made was pretty awesome . That organization is phenomenal,” he added.
Finely is a hunting dog -- a German shorthaired lab mix… with a lot of lab. Lauren had actually met Finley a few weeks ago at a hunting camp in South Dakota.
“We went to a kennel where they had 40 puppies from three different litters. We narrowed them down to two -- I have pictures and everything, but he was four weeks old.”
“I was actually having symptoms in June when my left side was really painful. We went in and the doctor said a cyst had burst. We decided since it burst, the cyst would heal on its own,” she said. “After that my pain went away. In August, I’d gotten back from a mission trip to Puerto Rico, and ten days after that my abdomen was really swollen and I wasn’t eating much. We went back in because my mom was worried I’d picked something up from Puerto Rico. I had 5 liters of fluid free floating in my abdomen -- that’s 10 pounds.”
The cyst was taken out and sent to pathology. During her two week follow up, she was cleared to play volleyball that night… and that’s when she got the news.
Still difficult to talk about, Lauren said she started her first chemotherapy on her 18th birthday Nov. 14. She had a second round of chemo on Dec. 5 -- a process that takes some 8 hours.
Lauren can expect between 4 to 6 rounds of chemo, depending on how her body reacts to it. Looking beyond the chemo, Lauren plans to enroll at the University of North Dakota to pursue a biology pre-med major. She is following in the footsteps of her sister, who has started her first year of med school and Cameron who is a pre-med major.
“We’re a medical family -- my mom is a nurse anesthetist and I have two aunts in the medical field. My dad is an account for Martin Construction,” she said.
She continues to attend classes, resting a couple days after each chemo session. She’s surrounded by the love of her family and friends and, of course her teammates -- both from volleyball and basketball.
And then there's Finley to keep her mind occupied.
“He’s really a good dog… he’s getting house trained really fast. He’s really snuggly,” she said. “He’s the best gift ever. I’m super thankful to Make-A-Wish and everything they’ve done for me and my family.”
The Adopt-a-Wish partner is the Bakken BBQ. Items were donated to Lauren by Martin Construction, Paw & Claw Pet Palace, Happy Hounds/Jessica Olson, Farmers Union Insurance and Reichert Armstrong Law.
Wish granters Kelly Braun, Heather Kontz and Hope Sticka, along with volunteers Lindsay Martin and Shantae Rehbein, were in attendance at the Wish Reveal.
Recalling the Reveal, Kelly said, “You could absolutely see the joy through her smiles she had that evening. That puppy is making all the difference.I think it provides a positive experience to focus on something that’s not part of the illness. On her down days, that puppy will provide her with tenderness, love and caring, and so they will go through this together.”