Two-year-old Leigha Ness, with her mom, Danielle, is fighting stage 4 cancer.

A tiny patient with mighty strength

December 17, 2019

She may be tiny, but Leigha Ness is all heart.

Leigha was born full-term weighing barely 3 pounds — the result of a genetic growth disorder so rare it remains undiagnosed. She was rushed to the Sanford Partners Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Sanford Children’s Fargo where she underwent surgery on her stomach and began treatment for a number of complications.

At 5 months old, Leigha was finally released from the hospital, but the worst wasn’t yet behind her.

In July 2019 — just weeks after her second birthday — Leigha was diagnosed with stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that forms in the body’s soft tissue.

Leigha immediately began treatment at Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center. Within a month, her curly dark hair began falling out from the chemotherapy — a painful milestone in what will be a long, difficult journey.

For the next year and a half, Leigha will continue weekly chemotherapy treatments — some that require lengthy hospital stays to manage the harsh side effects — as well as radiation and surgery.

It’s more than anyone should have to face in a lifetime, let alone a child. But although Leigha is still small for her age and unable to speak, she’s sassy and strong-willed. She handles every hurdle with inspiring strength, and at the end of the day, all she wants to do is laugh and play like any other kid.

Her mother, Danielle, says Leigha’s spirit never ceases to amaze. Because they still have more questions than answers about Leigha’s health conditions, she calls her daughter a “beautiful mystery.”

Danielle is thankful to Roger Maris and Sanford Children’s for saving Leigha’s life. It means the world, she says, to have such compassionate people caring for her daughter and to have everything they need just minutes away from their home in Moorhead, Minn.

A gift of health and healing

This holiday season, let patients like Leigha and their families know you care. Please support whatever cause at Sanford is closest to your heart. Whether it’s Roger Maris, Sanford Children’s or any other area of care, every dollar will stay local to help transform and save lives, close to home.

Visit sanfordhealthfoundation.org/holidays to give your most important gift of the year.