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MODEL OF THE MONTH

“Maybe it's a dance party, maybe it's a good cup of coffee or a cute pair of comfy leggings, maybe it's just a laugh in the middle of our hot mess of cancer, but no matter how big or small, we choose joy.”

- Alayna’s Mom, Jenny

Alayna, better known as Laney Bug, is described by her mom as always giving everyone hugs and kisses before they leave her presence. She means everyone! Even if Alayna just met you, it is important to prepare for the joy! She makes all the people around her feel loved beyond belief. With all of the love she carries in her heart, Alayna dreams of sharing it with others when she becomes a doctor. She has an amazing attitude, never fusses or complains about her treatment or her “pokeys” and she loves to eat guacamole and candy. Jenny, her mother describes her as having more energy than the Energizer Bunny. We think it may be from all of that candy! Her mom says that honestly the only way someone would know she is battling cancer is from her being bald during treatment or by the little bit of a limp from her leg infection. Besides that, you would never tell that this little girl is battling pediatric cancer. Alayna loves having fun and playing outside with her two sisters: five year-old Addyson and one year-old Avery. Her favorite place in the world is Walt Disney World because of all of the beautiful princesses that live there.

While Jenny, Alayna’s mother, was pregnant with her youngest child last January, she started noticing some bruising on Alayna. Within a few minutes of bumping into a wall during a Disney trip, she had a huge bruise on her forehead. When Alayna’s parents took her into the doctor, they received a speedy diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Jenny recalls the moment she says, “It is something that we would never expect to happen to our family, but we honestly believe we were chosen for cancer.” She says cancer has made them stronger and more thankful for everything around them. Alayna’s family always says the Lord won't give you anything you can't handle, but Jenny does not think that is true. She thinks the Lord chooses to gives you what you cannot handle so that your only real option is to depend on Him.

In the last nine months, the Nickless family has spent over 100 days in the hospital dealing with chemotherapy, fevers, medicine, and infections. The hospital staff has all become a part of who we are and a part of our story. Alayna is currently getting monthly IV chemo with a week of steroids, a monthly lumbar puncture, and chemo pills each day at home as well. Thankfully, radiation is not needed for this sweet little girl! Alayna even had to have surgery after a bad infection on her leg from a Band-Aid.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in children and it represents approximately 25% of cancer diagnoses among children younger than 15 years of age. There are approximately 2,900 children diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia each year in the United States. This type of cancer originates in the T- and B-lymphoblast in the bone marrow. Guidelines for cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia entails a complicated risk assignment, intense therapies, a crucial need for rigorous supportive care, countless transfusions, cautious management of infectious complications as well as emotional, financial, and developmental aid.

Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved in children and adolescents with pediatric cancer. For Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, the five year survival rate has increased over time from 60% to approximately 90% for children younger than 15 years. Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close follow-up due to cancer therapy side effects which may persist or develop months or years after treatment.

Runway to Hope is looking forward to having Alayna walk again this year for her second time in the spotlight. The Nickless family claims that cancer has been the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to them because it has made them stronger and caused them to meet so many amazing families and friends who have joined them on this journey.

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