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Waterford - While many people spent the Christmas of 2010 opening gifts or enjoying a family dinner, Lauren Lamothe spent hers assuring her 6-year-old twin sisters that Santa Claus had not skipped their house.
He was simply waiting for their mother to return home from the hospital, where she was recovering from surgery.
Amanda Lamothe had been diagnosed with breast cancer that November, and her five children spent the day in their mother's hospital room.
"It was like a normal November day when my mom picked me up from school," the 17-year-old Waterford High School senior said of learning about her mother's disease. "I could tell that something was wrong, so I asked her, and she just said, 'I have cancer.' It was such a blow, when someone tells you something that big, you just don't really know how to respond."
Luckily for the twins, Santa Claus visited the house a few days after Christmas, when Amanda Lamothe, a single mother, returned home from the hospital. She sat on the couch with some pillows and a blanket while the family gave her presents and shared in the holiday festivities.
"It was probably the best Christmas we ever had," Lauren Lamothe said with a smile. "I mean, the real present was my mom coming home. I just think it was a wonderful experience."
This was only the beginning of a long journey for Amanda Lamothe, as she began radiation and chemotherapy soon after. Lauren Lamothe drove her mother to the hospital for some of her appointments and quickly became interested in radiology.
"I was just fascinated by all the technology and everything. I would talk to the doctors all the time, and that's what really inspired me to go into the medical field, specifically ultrasound," Lauren Lamothe said. "I want to help mothers discover their children."
In pursuit of this passion, she will be attending the University of Hartford in the fall to study radiologic technology and specialize in ultrasound.
In addition to going to school, Lamothe has racked up 158 community service hours working with second-grade children, well surpassing the school's 80-hour requirement. She also holds down a job at the Port 'N Starboard banquet hall at Ocean Beach Park.
She began running track and cross country during her sophomore year and hopes to continue her running career in college. Not the biggest fan of running at the beginning, she had to be practically dragged by a friend to her first practice. But Lamothe soon discovered a natural talent for distance running and made it to states in her junior and senior years.
"It was a talent that I didn't know I had. I was keeping up with some of the best members of our team," she said. "Now running is one of the biggest parts of my life."
While many who know Lamothe are impressed by her, her mother is perhaps the only one who truly understands how responsible she can be. When she was sick, Lauren Lamothe made sure she stayed positive throughout the ordeal in order to give her siblings strength - something she knew would help her mother fight the disease.
"She dependable," her mother said. "That's nice to count on as a mom, just to have somebody here in general when things are like that."
Amanda Lamothe is not surprised by her daughter's success and drive. She's always looked at her daughter as a bit of a divergent thinker.
"Things that bother other people don't bother her," she said.
While Lauren Lamothe's mother is inspired by her, Lauren Lamothe can't help but be inspired by her mother.
"She's been doing chemo and radiation for the past year, and that was very difficult for us," Lauren said. "But she always came through with a smile on her face. That's how she inspired me. Whatever struggles you go through in life, you have to go through with a positive attitude, or else you're just going to live your life miserably."