Leah’s journey began in June 2014 when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma at the tender age of 4. Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer that primarily affects infants and young children. At the time of her diagnosis, doctors gave Leah a 50/50 chance of survival – and this is when Leah began her courageous fight.
She was put into a new clinical trial specifically targeting neuroblastoma cells. Her treatment included weeks of intensive chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and additional experimental treatments.
In September 2014, after Leah completed chemotherapy, doctors felt she was ready for surgery to remove the tumor. After a very serious seven-hour procedure, the doctors were successful. But Leah’s battle was far from over.
After the surgery, Leah was scanned to determine if the treatments had destroyed the neuroblastoma cells throughout her body. Unfortunately, the treatment had little to no effect, and the disease was still spreading throughout her tiny body. At this point, I feared cancer might take my precious daughter from me. I also decided I wanted to give Leah’s battle with cancer a purpose and use the platform I had as a professional athlete to raise awareness and help other families.
Leah began another new clinical trial, which used an antibody treatment to find and destroy cancer cells. On March 25, 2015, Leah’s doctors said she was in remission. Leah asked me “Daddy, did I beat up cancer?” and I could finally say, “Yes!”
Since then, Leah has endured an aggressive stem-cell transplant and many other treatments and challenges which threatened to take her strength, energy and hope. But Leah is still strong! She never complained and instead provided strength to those around her.
Because of our experience, Leah and I formed the Still Strong Foundation to provide assistance to other families whose children are battling cancer. We want to thank all those who have supported us through these difficult times and in turn, pay it forward. We anticipate the day when no child will have to suffer because cancer has been cured. Until that day, Leah and I will never give up the fight!
PERSONAL JOURNEY THAT BROUGHT US HERE
Leah and I created the Still Strong Foundation in 2015 to give grants to families affected by childhood cancers. We want them to spend less time worrying about non-medical bills, like mortgages and utilities, and more time supporting their child to a victorious fight against cancer.