Leah Still & Devon Still: “No Matter How Hard, We Never Gave Up”

(Photo credit: Instagram)

Fans and followers from all over the world cried, prayed and celebrated throughout the journey of the young-but-mighty Leah Still, daughter of NFL player Devon Still. In 2014, Leah was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and Devon documented their up and down journey of doctor visits, chemo treatments and heartache on social media. Then after much prayer, two years later, Leah was diagnosed as cancer free.

When the two found out that Leah had cancer, it was something that changed every aspect of how they live.

“On this day 5 years ago my life changed forever when I found out Leah had cancer. Even after all this time, the emotions I get looking at pictures still feel fresh. They say having a kid is like letting your heart walk outside your body and expecting it to never get hurt. Well, my heart experienced the type of pain I could never truly express with words. Sometimes I catch myself just literally staring at her thanking God she is still here. I lost a lot of things/titles since that day, that I once thought were important like “Nfl player.” But the one title that I’m forever grateful I still have is Dad.”

Last year Devon penned this message on social media to celebrate the two-year cancer-free “birthdate” too.

“I want to wish a Happy 2nd Birthday to my daughter, Leah. Today marks 2 years in remission! From the moment we took this picture in the hospital, right before doctors walked in the room and said she had cancer, we had an extremely tough fight. But no matter how hard it got we never gave up. So today, we celebrate your strength and perseverance Leah! I love you more than you could ever possibly know.”

Now that Leah just turned eight years old, the former Bengals defensive lineman and Houston Texan is now looking forward to working with NASA to fight cancer through research in space. The NFL dad and husband shared this post on Instagram:

Every day, NASA spacecraft beam down hundreds of petabytes of data, all of which has to be codified, stored and distributed to scientists across the globe. Increasingly, artificial intelligence is helping to “read” this data as well, highlighting similarities between datasets that scientists might miss.

For the past 15 years, the big data techniques pioneered by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, have been revolutionizing biomedical research.

The NCI-supported Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) is a consortium of biomedical investigators who share anonymized data on cancer biomarkers, chemical or genetic signatures related to specific cancers. Their goal is to pool all their research data into a single, searchable network, with the goal of translating their collective work into techniques for early diagnosis of cancer or cancer risk.

In the time they’ve worked together, JPL and EDRN‘s efforts have led to the discovery of six new Food and Drug Administration-approved cancer biomarkers and nine biomarkers approved for use in Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments labs. The FDA has approved each of these biomarkers for use in cancer research and diagnosis. These agency-approved biomarkers have been used in more than 1 million patient diagnostic tests worldwide.

This whole program is in partnership with Devon and Leah Still’s Still Strong Foundation that helps other families battling childhood cancers. Devon posted how proud of his daughter he is: