No News Story Has Ever Made Me Happier Than The News About Leah Still

@stillinthegame via Instagram
@stillinthegame via Instagram

Last night, while watching TV with The Wife Person and scrolling through Facebook on my phone, I came across a story about Leah Still, the four-year-old daughter of Cincinnati Bengal Devon Still. If you recall, Leah's battle with pediatric cancer made national headlines last year, in large part due to her father's pre-surgery "pep talk" to her going viral.


The news was great. Leah's doctors gave her a positive prognosis, saying they didn't see any active disease in her body. They're still waiting on MRI and bone biopsy results, but they seem to be optimistic.

As I continued reading, something unexpected happened. Something that, as far as I can remember, has never happened to me while reading or even learning good news. I started…crying.

I felt it coming on when seeing the picture of Leah and Devon, processed whether it would be just watery eyes or actual tears, realized it was going to be the latter, processed whether I wanted to stay on the couch and allow The Wife Person to see what was about to happen, decided "No," got up from the couch to get a glass of lemonade or something, and felt the tears fall as I opened the fridge.

I spent some time last night and this morning attempting to find a good angle to write about this. I considered using this occurrence as a lead-in to a larger story about both my own experience with a loved one battling cancer and the mourning process. I also thought about whether it would be more interesting to write about how age is making me more sensitive to and appreciative of the tenuousness of life, or perhaps something about why I was reluctant to shed tears in front of my wife.

Each of these angles would have been valid and honest. But, in this instance, they would have been unnecessary. Sometimes things just make you very happy, and sometimes all that's needed to be said about it is how great the news is and how happy it's made you. I cried because I was happy — no single news story has ever made me happier — and because sometimes certain feelings are just incapable of being captured by words.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



I saw this story on the morning news and my heart wept with joy. I lost my husband to cancer six months ago and I know the incredible stress and sadness. Leah is a trooper and her father is a beautiful gift to her. Thank God for this blessing. P.S. Got my mammogram ultrasound results this morning. After watching both my husband and my mother die from cancer, you can't imagine the stress I've been feeling for the past week. Result: BENIGN!!!! God is good ALL the time.