Former NFL lineman Devon Still has a lot to be thankful for.
He has a beautiful family, he retired from professional football with his health intact, and he’s flourished in his second career as a peak performance coach and motivational speaker. But of every blessing in his life, he’s most grateful that his daughter Leah, 9, is now able to celebrate being cancer-free for five years.
“Once your child reaches the five-year mark in their cancer battle, the chances of the cancer coming back are basically slim to none,’’ Still told TODAY. “This is huge for us because when you have a child that’s battling cancer you’re basically holding your breath until you reach this point.”
In 2014, Leah was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma at the most inopportune time: while her father was fighting to earn a roster spot with the Cincinnati Bengals. Her ensuing cancer battle became an international phenomenon, as #LeahStrong became a rallying cry for millions throughout the globe who drew inspiration from Leah’s infallible tenacity.
She was able to raise over a million dollars for cancer research and was awarded the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2015 ESPYs, all while her father sacrificed his NFL career to be by her side.
“A day like this seemed so far away when we first got that diagnosis,” Still said. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs along the journey and times you question if you’re ever gonna make it to this point, so it’s just a blessing.”
And what did Leah do to celebrate such a momentous occasion? Her family refused to allow the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to put a damper on her five-year cancer-versary, so they treated her to a delicious feast at home.
“When your daughter wants to go to a steakhouse to celebrate, but we’re locked down on quarantine, you just gotta whip out that chef hat,” Still said in a video he shared on Twitter, revealing a mouth-watering spread that included steak, lobster tails, and asparagus. “This is better than any steakhouse you could’ve went to!”
But even with so much to be thankful for, the battle wages on.
“Although Leah’s cancer fight is over with, we gotta fight until every parent gets to feel this feeling of reaching five years,” Still said.
Visit the Still Strong Foundation to learn more about how you can join the fight against pediatric cancer.