I had to have brain surgery because I had a rare genetic malformation. Basically, my brain was too low in my head and its stem was touching my spinal cord, causing a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in my spine. Not pleasant. I went to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia because the condition was so rare. They said that I would have to shave the bottom part of my head for surgery and afterward I would have a four inch scar.  I planned to get extensions immediately after the surgery to cover it up.
 
My family and I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia the night before my surgery. Just $15 for a cozy place to sleep and hang out, equipped with everything you could imagine.
 
That night, I realized how amazing the House was.  Personally, my family and friends didn’t understand what I was going through, but when I was at the Ronald McDonald House I felt less alone. I met a girl at dinner and she was telling me about all of her surgeries. Finally, I felt like someone understood and it put me at ease. She then showed me all her scars and told me "never be afraid to show your scars because you earned them."  She was so right.   
 
I went into my surgery feeling strong and courageous and after a long recovery I chose not to get extensions to cover up my scar.  As soon as I was able to leave the House I wore my hair up so everyone could see it.
 
This past year I met a little girl in my town who had the same brain surgeon as I did.  She has a rare type of brain cancer and was just starting to lose her hair.  I could tell she was a little nervous about her appearance, so I told her the same thing that the girl at the Ronald McDonald House told me. ‘You earned your scar and your bald head – you should have no shame walking around without a hat on.’ She barely ever wears hats now. 
 
It’s been almost three years since my surgery, and the Ronald McDonald House stays close to my heart. In fact, I am in the psychology club at school and they are helping me collect pop tabs for the local House. It’s a perfect way for college students to get involved. And it’s a perfect way for me to continue giving back to an organization that helped my family and me so much.
Lauren McCarthy