MVP – Leighton

7-year-old Leighton is like most kids. After school she juggles a full roster of sports – hockey and baseball are her favorites. (Her dad’s a former MLB pitcher and her mom, a coach and manager of a league of girls’ softball teams). But she’s not like most kids in that a diagnosis in May stopped all the juggling balls as she underwent surgery and chemotherapy at Phoenix Children’s.

It started last spring with stomach pain and troubles, and Leighton landed in a local emergency room.  On Mother’s Day, her mom was given the news that Germ cell tumors were found in her stomach. Panic and fear set in, but doctors reassured her that her daughter’s cancer was treatable.

Leighton underwent chemotherapy immediately. Anticipating the loss of her long, blonde hair, her parents wanted her to have some control over the loss of her hair. Her teams wanted to show their support, so after practice one night in May, dozens of kids assembled at Atlee Park to shave their heads in solidarity.  “I’m not scared, she said.  “I have everyone here with me.”

When she spends time at Phoenix Children’s, Leighton especially loves going to the craft room to keep busy. She loved it so much in fact, that even while she’s still fighting her battle, she and her mom are putting together a drive to collect art supplies to donate to the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

Later she underwent surgery to remove the tumors.  Within a day, Leighton was up and out of bed, walking around and feeling so much better. She says she’s ready to tackle the rest of those chemo treatments to shrink a few small tumors around her lungs. “I think I smile even more now than before,” she says.  “Because I’m happy!”

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Jonathan is a miracle baby. At birth, he was diagnosed with Down syndrome and with three holes in his heart. Jonathan struggled to gain weight for months, which he needed to do before he could have heart surgery. While the surgery was successful, specialists at Phoenix Children’s then found that he had a tethered spinal cord. Then COVID-19 hit and everything shut down.