Her upbeat, peppy attitude makes her a great fit for the varsity team, but it’s also the driving force in helping her overcome a brain tumor diagnosis and get back on her feet to cheer on the team, even after surgery to remove the tumor and a potentially life-threatening concussion last fall.
Audrey has been selected Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Comeback Athlete for the month of January for returning to cheerleading as soon as she could following both the surgery and again after the concussion.
Audrey said the recognition as one of Children’s Comeback Athletes reaffirms for her that her health is essentially back to normal.
“(It’s) a nice feeling to have,” she said. “It’s nice to be normal.”
The 16-year-old daughter of John and Kim Lockstedt of Woodstock loves cheering football and basketball games with her teammates, adores animals and is learning to play guitar.
But her life changed June 17, 2011, when her 20-year-old brother Evan woke up that night after hearing Audrey make strange sounds. When he couldn’t wake her up, he alerted his parents who then drove her to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.
Audrey was given a computed tomography scan at the hospital and was told by her doctor told the family to follow up with a neurologist. She then received an electroencephalogram and a magnetic resonance imaging scan, both of which showed a mass on her brain.
At that point, it wasn’t clear if the tumor was malignant or benign, but Joshua Chern, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children’s, wanted to operate immediately to remove the tumor.
“When they told me, I was thinking maybe in the next year or two, but he was like no, no, next two weeks or so,” Audrey said of the shocking news.
Still, Audrey cheered a football game the day before her surgery.
“I was crying my eyes out just looking at her, knowing what we were going to be facing, but she was fine,” her mother Kim said.
On Aug. 24, 2011, Chern removed the marble-sized tumor located on the rear left portion of her brain. Less than a week later, he called the family and told them that the tumor was benign.
Her father John was the first to say Audrey was the strongest member of the family throughout the ordeal.
“She never cried when she found out, it was more of a surreal kind of shock, but she never really got upset like that,” he said. “She just was a trooper through the whole process.”
John Lockstedt said his family’s Christian faith and support from fellow members of First Baptist Church of Woodstock helped guide them through.
“It’s always something you think happens to other people and you almost seem immune to it somehow but then it happens to you and it just really rocks your world a little bit,” John said. “We really put our faith in the Lord and it’s just so neat to see how He carried us through that whole entire thing and all of a sudden she’s home, doing fine, cheerleading… It’s just so hard to believe it went by so fast.”
Following the surgery, Audrey had to sit out a couple of practices and games, including the 2011 homecoming game and parade. She returned to the team three weeks later and was eventually able to return to stunting with her varsity team.
During an October practice, a teammate’s foot slipped from a stunt and hit Audrey, a front spotter, in the same area she had her surgery and caused her to fall and hit the back of her head.
Her mother took Audrey back to Scottish Rite where another CT scan revealed she had a concussion. Audrey was instructed to get a lot of rest, avoid looking at screens and rest her brain — which meant 15 days out of school.
After returning to Sequoyah, Audrey was able to get her grades back up and hopes they will help get her into Kennesaw State University, where she wants to earn a business degree.
She said she also has a passion for animals and would like to pursue a career working with them. She has two pets, a Yorkshire Terrier named Chippie and a cat named Keoki.
“My mom and I go down to the Cherokee County Animal Shelter a lot and when I turn 17, I want to become an official volunteer,” she said.
She had to miss another homecoming game and parade this fall, but still got back to her team after she was cleared by her doctor.
“It shows me that she’s not one to give up,” John Lockstedt said. “She’s not one to let it get her down or get in her way.”
Kim Lockstedt said her daughter has had her difficult moments dealing with severe headaches, but she hasn’t let it get her down.
“She would cheer a game, and then we would get in the car and kind of lose it because she was hurting so bad,” Kim said. “But when she was out there on the field you couldn’t tell.”
Audrey said keeping a positive attitude is just a matter of taking each day one day at a time.
“I just kept thinking that everything was going to be OK,” she said.
Her brother said his family also tried to use humor to lighten the situation, both before and after the surgery.
“We joked that at least it proved she had a brain,” he said.
Kim Lockstedt said she knew Audrey was going to be all right after the surgery when she asked for her glasses—because she can’t see anything without them — and got a laugh out of her daughter’s response.
“She said, ‘Can you tape them to my head bandage?’ because her ears were covered and she couldn’t keep them on her ears,” her mother said.
The family also shared a favorite photograph of Audrey — with glasses taped to her head—eating tater tots and scrambled eggs in the hospital.
“I just don’t think much of it,” Audrey said. “I guess a lot of people have to deal with a lot of stuff (that’s) worse, like cancer.”
The family had nothing but kind words about Chern and the entire Children’s staff.
“Her doctor really was a blessing,” Kim Lockstedt said. “You put all your trust and faith in someone you don’t know, it’s a total stranger… We just love him.”
“From the beginning when she went in until she left, the whole hospital staff was awesome as far as making her feel good and happy and just meeting her needs,” John Lockstedt said.
Audrey’s father said he had a lot of confidence in Chern.
“He spent a lot of time researching exactly what happened and that helped give us a calm knowing she was in excellent hands.”
Now, Audrey said everything is essentially back to the way it used to be, though she has to take medicine twice a day, continually have follow-up visits with her doctor, wear a medical bracelet and be careful during practices.
“I take some precautions with cheer,” she said. “Everybody knows what’s going on so hopefully another accident won’t happen.”
Her brother Evan, who is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Southern Polytechnic University and participates in Army ROTC at Kennesaw State University, said his sister inspires him to never give up.
“It was nice to see her not take the easy way out,” Evan said. “She put her team first. She put the football players first. … That gave me encouragement.”
For the Comeback Athlete of the Year Award, a panel of CHOA staff from the sports medicine program will pick one winner a month until May from online nominations, and then open online voting to choose the winner. The winning athlete will receive $500 for his or her team.