This is how an 11-year-old girl named Lolo spent her snow day.
She wore her Taylor Swift T-shirt instead of Catholic-school plaid. She drank hot cocoa by the fireplace.
Then she donned her coat and snow pants and ran outside. She tackled her big brother and squealed when he face-planted her in the snow. She threw snow back. She ignored her mother's warnings about her fragile arms and flopped face-first in a black inner tube. She sailed down her front yard with beautiful abandon. Her hat was gone, somewhere. At this 8-degree moment, she didn't seem to care.
“I like her pink cheeks,” Lolo's mother, LesLee Hacker, said. “It's so nice to see them pink.”
This was a far different snow day than last year. On that snow day, Lolo's cheeks were pale. The only pink was the hat she wore to keep her bald head warm. For so much of that nightmarish year, Lauren “Lolo” Hacker spent life apart from the rest of the world.
Diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, Lolo practically lived at Children's Hospital. She would spend weeks on the sixth floor fighting for her life and then, if her white blood cell count was high enough, got to go home for brief stays. Then it was back to the sixth floor, back to more heavy-duty chemotherapy — too sick to delight in the spontaneity of a snow day.
You might recall that last year, her classmates at St. Margaret Mary brought a snow day to her. On Jan. 31, 2013, they bundled up, decorated signs that said “Go Lolo go!” and made snow angels on the Children's Hospital lawn while Lauren watched from a sixth-floor window.
That day, she'd been too sick to see them up close, but the hospital let 32 fifth-graders enter the lobby. Lolo, in her pink hat and mask, clutching an IV pole, got to wave at them from the balcony.
What happened after that snow day was months of touch-and-go.
A spinal tap. More chemotherapy. More reactions to the chemo. She was septic and went into shock. Her intestines and rectum disintegrated. She'd get so sick that her parents — LesLee, who quit her job as a teacher, and Phil, a retired Air Force major who holds a civilian position at Offutt Air Force Base — were sure they were going to lose her.
She was so sick she couldn't tolerate light or heat or noise.
“She was so sick,” LesLee recalled, “she wouldn't lift her head. She wouldn't eat.”
But then, after that fifth and final round of chemo, she slowly got better. Lolo asked her dad to open the blinds. She asked a hospital staffer to paint her nails. On June 4, Lauren got to leave Room 607 and Children's Hospital. For good. At least for now.
The Hackers held a big party. They took a family cruise to Alaska. They focused on living in the moment and putting life's inconveniences into perspective.
“You restructure your life,” LesLee said. “You look at everything differently.”
Lolo returned to St. Margaret Mary in the fall. She is in sixth grade. She returned to sports. On Dec. 4, she fell backward at volleyball practice and broke both arms.
Bad luck, LesLee Hacker said, not cancer.
“I'm not going to be sad about this,” Lolo had told the emergency room doctor.
“I thought, 'You go, girl,' ” her mother said. “We came home and she was doing good. And then that night the pain hit. She couldn't get comfortable. The next morning she couldn't go to school because she couldn't get dressed. She couldn't move her fingers. It all came crashing down.”
But Lolo soldiered on. She returned to her volleyball team, although she can't start hitting the ball until Valentine's Day.
The Hackers must still be vigilant about the possibility of recurrence, given the type of cancer Lolo had — acute myelocytic leukemia, subtype monoblastic. Every month for the next five years, Lolo will have to have her blood drawn.
The blood test was also on Lolo's snow day agenda Wednesday.
But first, she lounged bare-armed around the house and scooped up fluffy pooch Maddie.
Her parish priest, Rev. James Weeder, stopped by. He had visited Lolo in the hospital nearly every day last year. He'd bring her lunch. He'd say prayers.
The Hackers are not from Omaha and have no extended family here. Weeder, 37, has been like an uncle.
Wednesday, the priest showed up in his black clerics and cowboy boots, bringing an inner tube.
Lolo got her winter clothes on in a flash. She was out the door just as quick.
A little later, pink-cheeked Lolo ran up to her mother and asked if she could take a running jump onto that inner tube.
“Do you have your splints on?” LesLee asked.
“No,” Lolo said.
But before her mother could say anything, Lolo smiled impishly. She took a running leap. She stretched her arms out like wings.
And Lolo flew.