Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still will accept the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award at the 2015 ESPYS on behalf of his daughter Leah on July 15.
Devon Still will accept the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award on behalf of his daughter Leah at the 2015 ESPYS on July 15.
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According to Cincinnati Bengals ESPN reporter Coley Harvey, Still was hoping his daughter would be healthy enough to make the trip to the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. However, her doctors didn't clear her.
Harvey says Leah Still went into remission four months ago but has had to undergo treatments which include stem-cell therapy and radiation to revitalize her immune system.
She stayed at the hospital for nearly 50 days due to complications from her medication. She eventually returned to their house in late June, per ESPN.
The Bengals defensive lineman revealed the news of Leah Still's absence in a July 14 Instagram post with a few of his family members around but not his daughter:
Harvey says the award which Leah Still will receive on Wednesday is named after the late and legendary North Carolina State Wolfpack head men's basketball coach Jim Valvano, whose emotional speech during the 1993 ESPYS while battling cancer still resonates with sports fans to this day.
He was given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award that year, per ESPN.
Among the past recepients of the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award include Sacramento Kings head coach George Karl, former Rutgers Scarlet Knights football player Eric LeGrand and the late SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott, per Harvey.
espnW's Darcy Maine reported on July 14 that Leah Still was diagnosed with cancer in June 2014. That month, she was supposed to be performing at a dance recital but came down with a high fever and severe hip pain.
When the doctor confirmed the diagnosis, Devon Still told Maine it was nothing like has has ever felt in his whole life.
"When I saw the doctor walking out and her lip was shaking, I kind of knew what she was about to say. So, when she actually said it, I just felt empty. It felt like I was just hit (by) a train.
"When I walked out, I was composed; but once I went to open my mouth to tell her grandparents that they found cancer, I just broke down crying.
"I told her that she had cancer, and that was a disease that some grown-ups and kids get, and that she was going to have to fight as hard as she can to win the battle. I didn't go into depth, I didn't tell her what some of (the) outcomes would be."
Leah Still began her first round of chemotherapy four days later. Total cost of the treatment would exceed $1 million, per Maine.
The good news was Devon Still's insurance with the Bengals covered this amount. Before the 2014 NFL season, the team placed him on its practice squad so he can avail of this insurance and spend more time with his daughter, per espnW.
Devon Still said a few weeks ago in Cincy that docs hoped to clear Leah for the cross-country trip. Immune system just not strong enough yet— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) July 14, 2015
However, Cincinnati activated him and moved him into its active roster several weeks later.
Still told Maine he was happy this happened "and get a break from everything for those couple of hours during a game." He also stressed he never kept his mind off his daughter's situation the whole time.
In Sept. 2014, the Bengals donated proceeds of Still's jersey sales to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital "to support pediatric cancer research," per Maine. The team sold an astounding 15,000 jerseys to raise $1.3 million.
Leah Still underwent surgery to remove her tumor on Sept. 25. The six-hour procedure was a success, per espnW.
The Bengals then presented the $1.3 million check to the Cincinnati Chidren's Hospital during halftime of a Nov. 2014 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, per Maine.
Once the Bengals' 2014 NFL season concluded in Jan. 2015, a 26-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round, Still and his fiancee Asha Tillison moved to an apartment near Leah's hospital so they can spend more time with her, per espnW.
That month, Maine says Leah Still wrote a book entitled "Leah Strong" to help raise pediatric cancer awareness.
In February, she became a nationwide sensation when she appeared in shows like "Today," "Ellen" and the New York Fashion Week, per espnW.
When doctors told Devon Still that Leah's cancer was in remission in March 2015, he was jubilant, per Maine:
"It was the best feeling in the world. It was like watching my daughter be born again, because it was like her getting a second chance at life. For that whole time, I constantly was telling her to keep fighting and to not give up, but I realized I was motivating her because I was also really scared.
"And to see all of her hard work pay off, was just the best. She started cheering and hugging me when she heard the news."
It was in May 2015 -- several weeks before her fifth birthday -- when Leah Still received stem-cell treatment to ensure the cancer would not come back. Her father surprised her with a trip to Walt Disney World to keep her spirits up, per Maine.
That month, doctors discovered she has VOD, an infection of the blood vessels and liver stemming from high dosages of chemotherapy. Leah Still overcame this setback, too, per espnW.
Devon Still told Maine his daughter is happy playing with her toys and watching television while staying at home.
The 26-year-old Stil, a defensive tackle, has amassed 40 tackles, 0.5 sack and one forced fumble in 30 career regular-season games with the Cincinnati Bengals, per ESPN stats.
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