Relay for Life: The energy to make it
Published 10:24 am Wednesday, July 22, 2015
As 2-year-old Elliana Leopold climbed over her parents’ legs and sang “Yankee Doodle,” many wouldn’t guess she’s battled cancer since September 2014.
“She’s full of energy, as you can see,” said Elliana’s mother, Mandy. “She’s a curious, adventurous little girl for sure. She loves doing anything outside, playing at the park, she likes going to gymnastics.”
“You’d never know anything was wrong with her, would you?” she added. “She’s pretty remarkable.”
Email newsletter signup
Elliana was chosen as one of the two honorary chairs for the 23rd annual Mower County Relay for Life.
Elliana was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at the end of September and has been through five rounds of chemotherapy, a fairly risky surgery, and will continue to get tests done every month and an MRI every three months for at least five years. There are two pieces of the tumor doctors couldn’t take out, but Mandy said with this type of cancer, since most of it was removed hopefully it should no longer be a problem.
“It can come back at any time, but if you can get past five years the chances of it drops significantly,” Mandy said.
Mandy and her husband, Tyler, were honored to have their daughter chosen as an honorary chair, and hope others can learn through her story. Mandy remembered organizers telling them Elliana would be a good fit because her story has been shared through fundraisers and a Facebook page, Prayers for Elliana, but also because she was still so energetic and happy even after everything she’s been through.
“I guess we’ve learned personally, how amazing the power of support and prayer and community is,” Mandy said. “It’s not only helped her but has helped Tyler and I.”
Tyler added that support from the community has been a big help in keeping up their own spirits.
“It’s nice to see when people band together and are willing to help at any cost,” he said. “You kind of learn that people will do a lot of things for you and are willing to help in any way they can. It kind of helped fuel our fire in a way.”
The couple has held a fundraiser in each of their hometowns. The Austin and Heron Lake-Okabena girls basketball teams raised $2,100 at a fundraiser called “Two Teams, One Cause” in January. Tyler is a Heron Lake-Okabena grad.
Tyler said he and his wife hope through their daughter’s story, people will learn there can still be joy and happiness after cancer. Mandy said the experience has put things into perspective for herself as well.
“Through the whole process she’s been amazing,” Tyler said about Elliana.
Elliana got a fun new experience this year, as well — riding in the parade at the Fourth of July Independence Day Parade.
“She enjoyed it, it was a new experience for her and she liked waving to everyone,” Mandy said.
“And she got to eat some candy on her way there,” Tyler added with a laugh.