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Running Helps Family Coping With Childhood Cancer

St. Jude Heroes make a difference at the Country Music Marathon.

In April 2012, Mandy and Jeff noticed an odd glow in the left eye of their 6-week-old daughter, Lela. After numerous tests with a pediatric ophthalmologist and a retina specialist, Lela’s family was overwhelmed to learn she suffered from retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye. Mandy and Jeff turned to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® for Lela’s care.

Doctors at St. Jude determined Lela’s diseased eye needed to be removed, and she underwent surgery when she was just 8 weeks old. Lela’s continuing treatment has included laser surgery and cryotherapy. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since it opened 52 years ago.

In 2014, Jeff signed up to be a St. Jude Hero in the St. for the 2013 St. Jude Country Music Marathon. St. Jude Heroes help raise funds as they train for the big day. For the family, it’s a way to help give back to the hospital that has done so much for Lela. “St. Jude treated us with incredible care and understanding during a difficult time,” said Jeff. “We were always met with friendly faces, and every move we made was designed for Lela’s best interests.” Jeff and a large group of friends and supporters raised more than $30,000 for St. Jude.

Lela’s parents are grateful for the people who help support the hospital. “St. Jude means life for us,” said Mandy. “We don’t have a financial burden hanging over us. St. Jude took that burden from us. And we have an amazing, healthy daughter because of St. Jude.” Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.

Today, Lela is an active, happy toddler who likes to play dress up and sing songs with her big sister. She wears a custom-fitted prosthetic eye and glasses, and visits St. Jude every six weeks for checkups.

You can help kids like Lela when you sign up for the St. Jude Country Music Marathon as a St. Jude Hero.

Read more at http://running.competitor.com/2015/01/partnerconnect/lelas-story_121102#GoCxMfuSjqu8bAto.99