Teen's prognosis went from 2 months to 2 weeks in days: 'She's taught us how to live'

(IndyStar) -- When Audrey Lupton was given two months to live she sat down with one of her teachers and made a bucket list.

The 17-year-old from Indianapolis was only a few months from starting her senior year at University High School in Carmel, and the prognosis was crushing for her family and friends.

Audrey was diagnosed in February with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare muscle cancer. The American Cancer Society describes it as a fast growing cancer that requires "intense treatment," and Audrey missed some school for her weeklong chemotherapy treatments.

However, she attended school most weeks, working on her Advanced Placement English class and art portfolio. She was still making sarcastic comments to get her friends to laugh. 

"I think a lot of her friends didn't know how much pain she was in," said Jenny Cox, a math teacher and Audrey's mentor.

But the two-month prognosis, that's not something a high school teacher, or a 17-year-old, was prepared to handle. They tried by making a list.

That was Tuesday, June 27.

Then on Friday, doctors gave Audrey two weeks to live.

An army forming

Cox said she started noticing a change in Audrey during the fall semester. Audrey was tired and her grades were slipping. Cox thought maybe she was having anxiety attacks because Audrey had some pain in her chest. She would tell Cox, "I don't know what's wrong with me."

Her parents, Suzann and Jonathan Lupton, took her to the hospital. Doctors found two tumors, one stretching across Audrey's chest and down her torso, Cox said.

There are only 350 cases of rhabdomyosarcoma diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the American Cancer Society. If it's widely spread, like Audrey's, the American Cancer Society gives a 20 to 40 percent chance of surviving five years.

Audrey's friends, calling themselves Audrey's Army, jumped into action. They had talked about taking their senior photos together the following year but scheduled the photographer for the week before Audrey started chemotherapy, so she would have her hair.

Her group of 16 friends is tight and have been since freshman year when the table of eight girls decided during lunch one day that the table of eight boys next to them would become their friends. They sealed the deal with laser tag.

By the end of the year, the small, private school of about 300 students had raised $14,000 for Riley Children Foundation's dance marathon in Audrey's honor.

"Army" was an appropriate term in the beginning, when it was about fighting. But in the past week, Audrey's friends and teachers have turned into something different, something closer to fairy godmothers, or genies. 

Now it's about making Audrey's wishes come true. 

The bucket list

Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing about Audrey's bucket list is its simplicity. She isn't asking for anything extraordinary. She's asking for the life she's been working toward.

  1. Visit Michigan again, where she spent many summers at camp.
  2. Finish reading all the Harry Potter books.
  3. Finish her own children's book.
  4. Go strawberry picking with her friends and picnic at the park at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
  5. Get accepted into college.
  6. Pull off a senior prank.

Finishing the list didn't seem possible considering Audrey is at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, dependent on an oxygen machine and in pain. But on Monday, during a small, impromptu high school graduation ceremony for Audrey at Riley, Cox described how they would make it happen. 

MORE: Read/watch the full story at IndyStar

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment