Princess Leyna, Cancer Survivor and Blood Recipient
“Taking the time to donate blood is truly giving the gift of life to children, like Leyna, who are battling childhood cancer. Without your life-saving donation, our little princess would not be here today and, for that, we cannot thank you enough!” – Karri Shiers-Ahlschwede
Welcoming little Leyna into an already busy family, with four older brothers and sisters, mom Karri and dad Mitchell looked forward to the years ahead enjoying a life filled with love and laughter. But during a routine18-month check-up, all that changed. Doctors diagnosed Leyna with Stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer that begins as a malignant tumor in tissues in the nervous system and often spreads before it’s discovered. By the time Leyna was diagnosed, it had already advanced throughout her body—to her bone marrow, even behind her eyes—and had created a cantaloupe-size tumor in her belly.
“The odds were stacked against our princess,” mom Karri recalls. “Her bone marrow was 98-99% diseased and we were told her chance of survival was very small. But she is a fighter and right from the beginning we saw an amazing outpouring of support. Co-workers and friends hosted fundraisers and complete strangers stepped forward to donate blood to help save our daughter’s life.”
Within six hours of her admission to the hospital, Leyna received her first blood transfusion. Many more followed as she endured five rounds of chemotherapy until it was determined that her tumor was operable. “We went into surgery hoping and praying that Leyna’s surgeon would be able to remove 100% of the tumor in her abdomen,” Karri said. “And while her surgery was a success in that regard, she suffered major complications. Her kidneys failed and her belly kept filling up with fluid, making it impossible for her to breathe on her own or to keep the incision closed.”
Princess Leyna went back to surgery four more times over the next two and a half weeks. She required dialysis and a ventilator to survive, as well as numerous platelet and red cell transfusions. Then came a bone marrow transplant, radiation and immunotherapy, and more blood transfusions that helped sustain her as she suffered through weeks of painful recovery.
Today, Princess Leyna’s diagnosis—“No Evidence of Disease”—is all that her family hoped for. “Leyna beat incredible odds to survive, but she didn’t fight alone!” Karri said. “Every blood donor who took the time to donate fought right alongside her. We are forever grateful for the gifts of life she received from each and every one who gave so generously. Thank you!”
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Roll up your sleeve in honor of kids fighting cancer, like Leyna.