Tomorrow night, sports fans everywhere will once again be reaching for their Kleenex boxes as Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still will take the stage to accept the Jimmy V. Perseverance award on behalf of his little princess, Leah Still, who has overcome her year-long battle with pediatric cancer.
If you have ever typed in the hashtag #LeahStrong within the last year, then you have come across pictures of a beautiful little girl with big smiles and a sparkle in her eye you can’t look away from, attached to stories of her incredible battle with cancer and her father’s relentless and undying support. The 26-year-old Bengals’ player has documented his daughter’s fight against neuroblastoma on Instagram since her diagnosis back in 2014 and the announcement of her remission this past March. Their story has since then gone viral and the support they have received in raising awareness for pediatric cancer across the NFL is nothing short of inspiring. The Bengals even donated over $1 million for pediatric cancer research on the Still’s behalf.
Earlier this year, a tremor shook the sports world for the worst after ESPN anchor Stuart Scott lost his ongoing battle with cancer and passed away in January, shortly after accepting his Jimmy V. award at the 2014 ESPYs. His speech, in which he stressed that you beat cancer not simply by surviving, but by “how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live,” will be forever remembered in the hearts of those who loved him and those who continue to fight for their quality of life. Scott’s life was full and therefore, we can rest despite knowing that he is gone.
This year, at least we can thrive on the joy that 5-year-old Leah has beat her illness and revel in her bravery. The Jimmy V. Perseverance award was named after former North Carolina State Men’s Basketball coach Jim Valvano, who received the Arthur Ashe Courage award at the 1993 ESPYs and delivered an absolute legendary speech. The award has since then been given to those who have courageously fought through the adversities of injuries and illnesses. Leah, has battled cancer, illnesses during remission, including hepatic veno-occlusive disease due to her stem-cell transplant, and also having to be away from her father, who plays in Cincinnati, while she is treated at home in Philadelphia where she lives with her mother.
Leah will not be on the stage tomorrow night as Still announced on his Instagram earlier today. He posted a picture of he and his family with the caption, “Headed out to LA with the fam. We are short one princess, but unfortunately the doctor’s didn’t give her the ok because her immune system is still weak. She told me to hold it down for us on that stage so that’s exactly what I’m going to do #LeahStrong.”
From a father to his baby girl we can only imagine the love, joy, and pride he takes in his beautiful little girl. We feel it too, and the Jimmy V. Award could not possibly have a better recipient this year.