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In 2015, the country learned what being "Leah Strong" is all about.
Leah Still, 5, has been an inspiring figure in her fight against pediatric cancer, helping to raise more than a million dollars for cancer research, winning an ESPY Award for her courage, and forming a close bond with TODAY's Hoda Kotb. After a whirlwind year, the daughter of former Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman and current NFL free agent Devon Still is looking forward to 2016, when she makes a final trip to the doctor on Jan. 8 to confirm that she is cancer-free.
"They said one more treatment and I'll be all done,'' Leah told Hoda via a FaceTime interview. "No more cancer."
"It felt good just to hear her say that because we've been fighting for over a year-and-a-half now, and sometimes it just feels like we would never get to this point, but we're finally almost there, and it's just a great feeling,'' Devon Still told Hoda on FaceTime. "She's almost at that finish line, so she's running hard now."
Leah was initially diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma in June 2014 and given a 50-50 chance to survive, but since then Still has said she's "done a complete 180" in her fight against cancer. Now she's looking forward to Christmas, asking Santa for a Barbie house, a Barbie car, clothes and Legos.
In September 2014, the Bengals kept Still on the practice squad on purpose so that he would have health benefits to pay for Leah's treatment, and later signed him to the 53-man roster. His No. 75 jersey became a symbol of Leah's fight, with the Bengals presenting a $1.3 million check to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital from sales of the item.
Leah was also one of the inspiring children in the "Truly Brave" video starring Cyndi Lauper and Sara Bareilles that was produced by Hoda. Part of TODAY's Shine a Light series to support worthy causes, the video featured children battling pediatric cancer at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
She kicked off a roller-coaster ride in 2015 by collaborating on a children's book with Still, "I am Leah Strong," aimed at kids who are in a similar situation to one she faced. In February, she strutted her stuff at Fashion Week in New York City to the sound of Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" and spent some time hanging out with Hoda.
A month later, Still made the encouraging announcement that doctors told them they didn't see any active cancer in her body after her latest scan. On May 6, she celebrated her fifth birthday, which included a surprise trip to Disney World from her father.
Only a few weeks later, Still announced that Leah was facing a "serious complication" from a stem-cell transplant in her cancer fight. After Leah cleared that hurdle, it was a memorable summer, starting when she was given the Jimmy V Perseverance Award by ESPN at the ESPYs in July. Still accepted the award for his daughter in an emotional presentation, as Leah was not able to attend because she was still undergoing treatments.
At the end of that month, Still announced that she remained cancer-free in her latest scans. Leah celebrated by challenging fellow adorable little girl Riley Curry, the daughter of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, to a dance-off to Silento's "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)."
In August, she received the great surprise of getting her own Wheaties box cover.
A month later, she caught up with her good friend Hoda when the two set up a lemonade stand together in the lobby of her apartment building.
At her upcoming appointment on Jan. 8, Leah is expected to have the port in her chest removed that had been needed for her to receive treatment. She also is working on some new hairstyles now that her hair is growing back.
With Leah doing great, Still is looking to jump-start his football career; he has workouts scheduled with multiple teams.
"Football is going to be soon,'' he happily told Hoda.
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