Still Strong

In June of last year Devon Still was faced with one of the most terrifying foes – cancer.  The cancer hadn’t come for him but instead his four year old daughter, Leah.  She was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, stage 4 pediatric cancer, leaving her with a 50/50 chance of survival.  Devon, 24 at the time, and Leah, 4, were in for one of the toughest battles of their lives.

My mother was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in November of the same year so I was especially touched by Leah’s story.  I found a great deal of inspiration and hope from a young father and his daughter courageously enduring the unimaginable.  Their positivity and tenacity were undeniably contagious.  Devon shared their story via social media (Instagram) and ESPN compiled the posts in a timeline starting with Leah’s diagnosis.

It was moving to see the out pour of support and all of those who rallied behind the Still family.  Most of all, the Bengals organization who signed Devon to the practice squad allowing him to keep his insurance and pay for Leah’s treatment.  Additionally, making his jersey available for sale and donating the proceeds ($1 million) to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for pediatric research. Devon told ESPN, “that was when I first saw the impact my daughter was having. She was just making so many people fall in love with her. There are so many things in this country that divide us, but to see people from all walks of life step up and purchase those jerseys, it was just amazing.”

During the course of her fight Leah has written a book, made appearances on Ellen, the Today show, she walked the runway at New York Fashion Week, won an ESPY and was featured on a Wheaties box.  “I remember the first video she did [with Hoda Kolb of ‘Today’], she called me right after and said, ‘Dad, I’m a movie star — cameras were following me everywhere!’ I think it kept her in good spirits and kept a smile on her face”

According to Devon’s Instagram Leah’s cancer is in remission she is currently undergoing radiation treatment.  While she is fighting her cancer he is fighting for a spot on the Bengal’s roster.  He’s giving his all to make the team but he’s still making time to support his daughter and those in need.  Today on Instagram he started #iAmStillStrongMondays where he will profile individual hardships in hopes of inspiring others and he shared recently he has been working on his Still Strong Foundation in his down time.  In an era where reports of professional athletes involved in domestic violence, sexual assault, DUI’s etc. are all to common it’s uplifting to hear of stand up guy like Devon.  He truly is using his platform and influence for good.

I hope his hard work pays off and he makes the Bengals roster but more importantly I hope Leah’s cancer remains in remission.  The world could use more Devons and Leahs but we’ll celebrate and cherish the ones we already have.

“You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” – Stuart Scott

How can you help?  Show your support:

Still Strong Foundation: http://www.gofundme.com/m72dwcc8

I am Leah Strong (book): http://iamleahstrong.com/buy-the-book/

Still Strong (t-shirt): http://www.cincyshirts.com/index.php/cincyshirts/modern-cincy-shirts/still-strong/still-strong-devon-still-shirt.html

 

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