Ashleigh & Leah
Leah was diagnosed on June 27, 2018 at just 3 years old, about 2 months shy of her 4th birthday. This was going to be a very special year for our family, as her Dad and I were getting married on July 28th. Leah was going to be our flower girl and was so excited to wear her princess dress, but everything changed on this day forever.
We will never forget how we felt when hearing those words "your child has cancer". It’s hard to even describe the pain you feel at that moment - it’s like nothing else. Looking over and seeing her laying sleeping on her bed so peaceful and innocent she had no idea what she was about to endure. The treatment started the next day, as well as surgery to have her port inserted for her chemo treatments. We were admitted for two weeks, while she received daily treatments and monitoring.
Over the next few months we watched our happy, care free little girl turn into someone else. She gained almost 9 pounds in one month and she was tiny to begin with. She stopped smiling, stopped playing, was depressed and it hurt to walk due to the steroids she had to take daily. On top of that, trying to control her nausea from the chemo she was receiving was very difficult. We were just doing everything we could to keep our baby comfortable and loved. You adapt to a "new normal" which means isolation from others because she is so vulnerable and just trying to survive and get her through her day. A normal trip to the grocery store now involved a lot of hand sanitizer, masks, and having her stay in her stroller instead of the cart which may have germs on it. Everything changes. I stopped working when she got diagnosed to care for her as she could no longer go to daycare and had appointments weekly. It is not an experience that we would wish on anyone, and it’s one that alters you and your family forever.
I will say to other families who are starting this journey that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. We are coming up to the end of our two and half years with Leah's treatment end date being the end of August 2020. Even though she is still in treatment, and still to this day deals with nausea and vomiting, still struggles with muscle pain in her legs, and gets tired out easier than other kids her age, she is back to being our smiley happy sweet girl. We are finally starting to experience a somewhat normal life again which we could not imagine two and a half years ago. It’s hard, but you can do it and get through it, and these kids are so resilient and strong. We have had our share of problems along the way, many hospital admissions, infections, and so on, but we were able to get through it all. The best thing you can try to do is stay positive and lean on each other and the close family you have.
We now hope that this is going to be a distant memory one day and just a short period of her life that she had to experience this pain. Going forward we hope that we never have to hear the word “cancer” again and that our baby girl stays happy and healthy.
Leah’s Mom, Ashleigh
Team Captain, Walk for Princess Leah