Stories of progress, inspiration, and information in overcoming osteosarcoma.

Faith holding her hands together, in a praying position

‘Firecracker’ Endures Osteosarcoma and Leaves an Unforgettable Legacy

After a 10-month battle with osteosarcoma, Faith Rose Lautzenheiser passed away due to chemotherapy-induced heart failure, but not before touching countless lives with her sparkling spirit.

Ruth Lautzenheiser describes her daughter, Faith, as “a firecracker — someone who was the life of the party.” As the youngest child — and only girl — in her family, Faith stood out from an early age. She loved hula hooping, singing, telling jokes, and playing with silly string.

“She was so full of life and spirit,” says Ruth. “She always had a special connection to people and a strong connection to God.”

The Moment that Changed Their Lives

One morning before church, 9-year-old Faith complained of a popping sound in her arm. She was in tears because of the pain, which only worsened over the next few days. By the end of the week, a concerned pediatrician told Ruth they needed to run more tests.

Several diagnostic tests later confirmed the worst: Faith had aggressive osteosarcoma. The tumor was in her left arm bone, called the humerus. Within 24 hours of diagnosis she was on chemotherapy at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

“We couldn’t believe this was happening,” says Ruth. “But we went into it with the mindset of ‘we’re going to beat it and we’re going to figure this out.’”

Spreading Joy Amid Pain

Over the next several months, Faith endured chemotherapy that left her tiny body weak and exhausted. Faith’s parents, Ruth and Ken, did everything they could to support their daughter. When Faith started losing her hair due to chemotherapy, Ruth shaved her own head to help her daughter feel a little less alone. To remove the tumor, Faith and her parents relocated from Texas to Seattle for a month for the surgery, leaving Faith’s brothers, Drew and Derek, at home with family.

Doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital performed a complex operation on Faith in which the tumor and a large portion of the humerus were removed and replaced with her calf bone (fibula). While successful, the surgery left her with painful nerve damage in her foot, making it difficult to walk for a period of time.

Through it all, Faith was a beacon of light to those around her.

“I know Faith was in so much pain, but she endured everything with such grace and a positive spirit.” — Ruth Lautzenheiser

Faith made fast friends with the hospital staff as well: doctors, nurses, technicians, custodians — any person who interacted with her. To pass the time while in the hospital, Faith would ambush staff with silly string, sending shrieks of laughter down the halls. She taught nurses how to blow bubbles through their noses and insisted on them dancing whenever they entered and exited her room. The oncology staff at Cook Children’s nicknamed her “Fabulous Faith.”

“I know Faith was in so much pain, but she endured everything with such grace and a positive spirit,” remembers Ruth.

A Heartbreaking Loss

After 10 months of fighting osteosarcoma, Faith passed away on June 6, 2013, due to chemotherapy-induced heart failure. She was 10 years old.

One of the hardest realities for Faith’s parents, Ruth and Ken, to process was the fact that the thing that was supposed to eliminate the cancer — chemotherapy — is ultimately what caused her heart to fail.

Before Faith passed away, her family envisioned forming a childhood cancer foundation to raise money and awareness for cancers like osteosarcoma. Now, after her passing, they had to decide whether they still wanted to move forward with the foundation without Fabulous Faith by their side.

Honoring Faith’s Spirit

To honor Faith’s memory, the Lautzenheiser family, along with some close friends, felt compelled to form Fabulous Faith’s Foundation (FFF) to continue the fight against childhood cancer. The foundation serves three aims: assisting families, supporting facilities, and advancing pediatric cancer research. Their pediatric cancer research initiative aims to invest in organizations like the OSI that are conducting groundbreaking research to find cures for childhood cancers.

To this end, in 2023, FFF partnered with the OSI to contribute $35,000 to pediatric cancer research. The foundation staff often uses the example of a cell phone battery to illustrate the urgency of funding osteosarcoma research.

“What do you do when your cell phone battery gets down to 4%? If you are like most people, you scramble for a charger because that is just not enough to sustain,” says Ruth. “Yet, 4% is the amount of the taxpayer-funded National Cancer Institute’s budget that goes toward childhood cancer. An even smaller amount is specifically targeted for the devastating diagnosis of osteosarcoma in children.”

Ruth’s work with the foundation remains motivated by her love for her brilliant daughter. “Faith was different than most kids. Even strangers could tell she was special,” says Ruth.

One of Faith’s friends summed up her legacy this way: “Faith reminds me to love hard, laugh often, and always keep the faith.”

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