Ashley Cain has shared that his 8-month-old daughter, Azaylia, has died. For months, the infant girl was being treated for a rare and aggressive form of leukemia, and on Sunday, Cain and his girlfriend, Safiyya Vorajee, announced the sad news.
"Rest In Paradise Princess," Cain wrote on Instagram. "I will always hold you in my heart until I can hold you again in heaven."
Vorajee added in her own post: "You are my Angel my heartbeat my soul, RIP my precious baby, you will always be with me like a handprint on my heart."
Last October, Cain, who appeared on MTV's "The Challenge: War of the Worlds," revealed that Azaylia, born in August 2020, had been diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer. Azaylia had childhood AML, also known as acute myeloid leukemia. According to the National Cancer Institute, the disease is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many abnormal white cells.
Dr. Richard Aplenc, a physician-scientist at the division of oncology at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, previously told TODAY that myeloid leukemia is the second most common pediatric blood cancer and that in the United States, there are approximately 500 children a year between the ages of 0 and 14 who are diagnosed with AML.
This year, after completing a course of treatment, Cain and Vorajee were told that their little girl's pediatric cancer had returned. After exhausting all possible options, they decided to take Azaylia home from the hospital to be with her family and give her "the best rest of her life that we can give her."
On Friday, Cain told social media followers that a palliative care team told him and his family to "make the most of this weekend" with Azaylia. His daughter had been experiencing seizures this past week and had to be hospitalized.
Cain has been open about his family and his daughter's "difficult" journey but at the same time kept a hopeful outlook. "It's 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no breaks, but it's all worth it," he said in an Instagram story on Thursday. "Because guess what? She woke up again this morning. She's still with us today and all the hard work we're putting in now is worth the reward in the end. We get that little smile, her eyes opening, it's amazing."
The following day, he shared his walk with Azaylia and said in part, "Who'd have thought that walking your baby up and down the street in her buggy would feel like the best thing in the world? But that does. Incredible moments every single day. ... It's only a little walk but it means so much."
Throughout his daughter's painful journey, Cain used social media to raise awareness and even to plead for a bone marrow donor to save her life. Finding a match for Azaylia was especially hard since she was of mixed ethnicity.
"That being said, ANYBODY no matter what race could be her genetic match,” the former pro soccer player wrote in an Instagram post last November. “My little warrior has done all she can do up until this point and more, but now she needs our help!”
Cain and Vorajee then set up a GoFundMe campaign and eventually informed followers that they had found a bone marrow match for Azaylia. They said their plea had helped drive 80,000 new bone marrow donor registrations in one weekend.
But despite a bone marrow transplant and four rounds of chemotherapy, Azaylia still had traces of leukemia. At one point, Cain and his family were trying to raise money for a trip to Singapore to try to get her new therapies but the medical team there later determined Azaylia's condition was so rare that they couldn't create a therapy for her leukemia.
Cain, Vorajee and their family are now mourning the loss of their only child.