Lea was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in January 2013. She underwent treatment in her home country of Canada, which included a bone marrow transplant with her younger brother, Theo, as her donor. But in October 2014, Lea’s parents, Stephanie and Jean-Francois, learned the cancer had come back.
Along with Lea’s doctors in Canada, her parents determined that the best place for her to undergo a second transplant was at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “We knew St. Jude was doing a different type of transplant with natural killer cells,” Stephanie said. “Our doctors said St. Jude would be the best place.”
Lea’s family arrived at St. Jude in January 2015. “From the moment we arrived, we knew we made the best decision for Lea,” said Jean-Francois.
Lea’s treatment included chemotherapy and a natural killer (NK) cell transplant, with Stephanie serving as her donor. NK cells are specialized immune cells that act as the immune system’s warriors—circulating in the body armed with proteins that can deliver a deadly one-two punch to viruses and cancer cells. St. Jude was the first institution to show that an NK cell transplant using bone marrow donated by a parent may replace a sibling donor bone marrow transplant to prevent a relapse of standard-risk childhood AML.
“There are so many resources available at St. Jude,” Stephanie said. “We did not know what to expect, but we felt welcomed as soon as we arrived.” Lea, whose primary language is French, took English lessons at the St. Jude school. She also loved spending time in the arts and crafts room at Target House, where her family stayed while she was in treatment.
Lea is a happy girl with an outgoing, expressive personality. She recently finished treatment and is home in Canada. Lea visits St. Jude for regular checkups.