What happened between those two dates, though, is unforgettable to anyone who knows her. Her twins were born early and Park, after a valiant fight, ;passed away seven months later. Leah’s stepfather was diagnosed with and passed away from cancer as well.
Some time after that, I called her. Not sure why. Maybe I was just checking in. Maybe I wanted to talk about shopping. Maybe we were planning to do something while our husbands went fishing. Who knows? I only know today that I was in the parking lot of Dillard’s when the call went through.
Leah answered – I bet she doesn’t even remember this – and she was sobbing. I had no idea what was going on but eventually one word pierced my consciousness: cancer.
Leah was leaving the doctor’s office as we spoke on the phone. She was not yet 30 years old, and had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was still mourning the loss of her son and of her stepfather. She had to be tired after fighting for one son for so many months, while also raising and loving on Payton. She had already had multiple procedures from her C-section. If anyone deserved a break, it was Leah.
She did not get one.
After she dried her tears, Leah did her research. Not wanting to have the fear of recurring cancer throughout her lifetime, she opted for a double mastectomy. She then participated in a trial cancer treatment that potentially could have fewer side effects that traditional chemotherapy.
If there were fewer side effects, I couldn’t tell.
She lost her hair; she lost her breasts; she lost her son; but Leah never lost her faith. I never heard her cry again, and she slowly recovered. The light came back into her eyes slowly but surely.
She is my hero. From the day I watched her fight for her son when others would have given up, she has been my hero. To the day that we discussed reconstruction, she has been my hero. And the day that she completed her first marathon, I celebrated her life as my hero.
Many of you reading this know Leah and already know her story. If you do know her, you know that there is even more to the story. For those of you that don’t know her, I apologize for not including her picture, but I’m telling this story without speaking to her first as I want to celebrate Leah’s survivor status … whether she wants me to or not!
On May 30, the Garland County Relay for Life is being held at Oaklawn Jockey Club. It is a perfect evening to remember those we lost to cancer – such as our Aunt Jessie – and a day to celebrate our survivor heroes like Leah.
All Things Arkansas is swathed in purple this month in honor of cancer awareness. We also are placing placards throughout the store with names of those that we love that have had cancer. List them in the comments below or on our Facebook page, and I will add them. Several of you have even included pictures, and those pictures are on the placards as well.
Let’s join the American Cancer Society in its efforts to eradicate cancer.