Leah Still is your typical 4-year-old kid. She loves to laugh and joke around with her mom and dad. She loses track of time if you pull out a can of Play-Doh. And she is absolutely entranced by Elsa and Anna of Frozen fame.
But there are two things that distinguish the chubby-cheeked girl from her peers: a father who happens to play in the NFL, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still; and a diagnosis of neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer that develops from immature nerve cells. Little Leah is in stage IV of the disease, and doctors have told her family that she has a 50-percent chance of survival.
“It was weird,” says Still, who adds that he was and is still in shock at the diagnosis his daughter received last June.
Her bout with the illness began innocently enough. “For a couple of weeks, she was complaining about leg pain,” he recalls. “We thought it was from her taking gymnastics. Then we thought she was saying her legs hurt as an excuse not to clean up her room.”
But Leah’s condition gave way to a fever and more complaints of “not feeling too well.” A subsequent visit to the emergency room led to the revelation that she had a malignant stomach tumor and would need to immediately begin aggressive treatment, including chemotherapy and surgery.
The bright-eyed child’s medium-length silky black ringlets have given way to baldness. Although Leah has had an operation to remove the tumor, she still must endure grueling radiation therapy.
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