By Anna-Marie Menhenott
TREASURE COAST -- As most parents prepared their children for the first day of the new school year, Stephanie Ledlow was traveling to Gainesville, faced with the unimaginable: her soon-to-be-kindergartener, Lilly, had been diagnosed with cancer.
"I was in a daze for most of the first week," Ms. Ledlow explained. "There were all these terms that I didn't understand and I didn't want to leave her side. My boyfriend did a lot of research to try and keep me informed but I was so overwhelmed with everything."
In the weeks since Lilly's diagnosis, Ms. Ledlow and her family have kept a vigil by her side.
"Lilly spent all summer eating ice chips and not wanting to go to the pool or wanting to play with her friends," Ms. Ledlow said. "Then her legs started hurting. By the time we got a diagnosis, her liver and spleen were enlarged and her body was full of white blood cells. We were rushed to Shands hospital in Gainesville and immediately started chemotherapy."
Lilly was diagnosed with Precursor B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. This is the most common cancer in children, accounting for about 75 to 80 percent of childhood leukemias. ALL has a 90 percent cure rate and less than 20 percent recurrence. All statistics are based on 5 years. If the Leukemia is in remission for five years, one is considered cured.
After Lilly was stabilized, she was transferred to St. Mary's Hospital in West Palm Beach so her family could be closer.
"She missed her sister terribly," said Ms. Ledlow. "She's been much happier since she's been transferred. She's able to take medicine at home and go to St. Mary's once a week to get tests done."
Because of the regiment of tests, treatments and transporting Lilly to all of her appointments, Ms. Ledlow is no longer able to work. Because of these unforeseen circumstances, the community has come to the aid of Lilly and her family.
"I'm completely overwhelmed by the support of everyone in the area," Ms. Ledlow said. "Because the steroids have caused Lilly to outgrow her clothes, I have people offering her clothes in bigger sizes. It's amazing how people help."
Undercover Skate Shop in Fort Pierce is hosting a benefit for Lilly on Oct. 5, from 2-7 p.m. There will be raffles, food, drinks, a bake sale, bounce house and face painting and music by several local bands, including the Humdingers.
A Bike Run For Lilly will take place Oct. 6, starting at 10 a.m. in the Bravo shopping center on the corner of Port St. Lucie Blvd., and Gatlin Blvd., in Port St. Lucie and ending at Treasure Coast Harley Davidson in Stuart. There will be stops at Shea's Bar and the Boardwalk in Jensen Beach on the way. Food and drinks provided by Bottoms Up Beverage, and music by NIXX. There is a $5 donation per bike and the event will include raffles.
"It's so incredible how much people care," Ms. Ledlow said. "She wants to go to school and continue on with her life. She's such a strong little girl. She's my strength when I'm just trying to take things one day at a time."
For more information about Lilly, her battle against cancer and the benefits scheduled to help her and her family, visit www.cureforlilly.com.