Athens, OH 15 April 2018 –
Why does a cute, innocent, little baby have to go through cancer? Why does it have to be the rarest kind of acute myeloid leukemia for children? Why have we found treatments for this rare type of leukemia, which is most commonly found in the elderly and those with Down syndrome, yet it is still not treatable in young kids like our Leighton? Why does every amazing treatment and therapy still seem to give hope and then throw a brick in our faces? Why do families get ripped apart and put in a hospital for over 6 months? Why does this monster called cancer even exist? All questions with no answers. Unanswered questions I have to live with every day. I have to find a place for those and move on. Our work is not done. Maybe, maybe I will ever find an answer, but for now unanswered and rest in peace…
…Even though this happened to my own family, to my beautiful baby cousin and princess Leighton Hailey van Leeuwen when 12 months old, we will never give up. For 6 months, Leighton smiled every day and never ever gave up. She always laughed and fought back. Now that she’s brought to sleep by a magical fairy, it’s up to us, her family and friends, to share her story and keep her alive!
You can help by telling and sharing her story on social media and be part of Team Leighton while this June I step in the life of Forrest Gump to run across America. Although our support could not beat Leighton’s monster, it might help beat that of someone else. This is partly the reason why I decided to run for her when I applied to be a 4K for Cancer runner 5 months ago: supporting my family from overseas while sharing her battle with cancer as a newborn.
Every day for 6 months I talked to the amazingly strong parents—my cousin and his wife—to give them support while they lived in a hospital and the Ronald McDonald house to do everything for their first little baby Leighton. To show her all their love as parents and in an attempt to keep her alive.
Now that she is the brightest star in heaven, I realized how much my support meant for my family… I am so proud of Leighton and the rest of my family! All I can say to all of you now is to please be aware and create awareness. Cancer could happen to everyone.
Please be aware of your surroundings, treat everyone with respect, and please support them when they are going through a rough time. I am proud to be part of my Mom’s “van Leeuwen” family and the family of the Ulman Cancer Fund.
I will always carry that pride with me. Please support me in my mission for Team Leighton and UCF:
“We envision a world in which no young adult faces cancer alone”
and in which we keep Leighton Hailey van Leeuwen her story alive!
For more information: https://ulman.z2systems.com/illona-hartman