“Chemo is hard for anyone, let alone a 6-year-old,” Lexington mom says

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – One Lexington mom says she was in shock when the doctor told her her daughter had cancer.

Nicole Hopper took her daughter Leorah to the hospital on May 10th, Mother’s Day, because Leorah was having severe stomach pains and a week of on and off vomiting.

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Their pediatrician thought it was probably a virus, but Hopper’s motherly intuition kicked in, wanting to be sure she took her to UK Hospital to double check.

At first, doctors thought it was Intussusception, a tangling on intestines.

But then, it was clear it was stage four Burkitt’s leukemia.

“‘Now you’re telling me there’s a tumor, and now you’re telling me that it’s cancer? Now you tell me she’s going to have chemotherapy?’ It’s a lot that goes through your mind as a parent, and to be alone because of COVID,” Hopper said.

Feeling alone, as she’s told the oldest of her three kids, Leorah, she has stage cancer.

Little did they know the day they showed up at the hospital, they wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon.

Leorah went through two bowel surgeries, several chemotherapy treatments, lots of bone marrow biopsies and lots of lumbar punctures.

“The hardest part as the mom has been seeing times when she loses herself. When her eyes change and the way she’s behaving is not her,“ Hopper said.

The remedy? Using a character from the Disney movie Moana, Te Fiti, who is a lava monster when part of her is missing. So, when Leorah isn’t feeling herself she flips the necklace to the lava monster.

“Then when she feels more like herself she turns it back around and says ‘Mommy, I’m this person, this is me right now,'” Hopper said.

Leorah caught on video telling her sister Avery about how the necklace has a special meaning.

“The necklace reminds of who I really am…and Avery…you need to remember who you really are too,” Leorah said over Facetime to her younger sister.

Saturday, after two months and a day, Leorah got to leave the hospital.

The best part? She left cancer free.

“The prayers are what have made the biggest difference, and the encouragement, the positive energy,” Nicole Hopper said. “Thank you seems so incredibly small, I’ve said it so much.”

Leorah’s battle isn’t over though.

She’s scheduled back on Wednesday for more chemo and will continue to go back over the next six months.

The hopper’s friends and family have started a few different fundraisers to help with medical costs. 

There’s shirts for $25 and patches for $10 and there’s also a GoFundMe page.

If you’re interested in following along with Leorah’s journey there’s also a Facebook page documenting the ups and downs.

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Monica Harkins joined the ABC 36 News team in June 2019 as a Multimedia journalist and Anchor/Producer. She’s born and raised in Austin, Texas and headed “North,” as she calls it, to study broadcast journalism and business at the University of Missouri. While at Mizzou she anchored and reported for KOMU 8 News, an NBC affiliate in Columbia, Missouri all four years. During her childhood she played almost every sport, but they always called her “Hollywood” for her love of theatre. In high school, she realized her excitement for theatre and performing was only a small piece of the puzzle. It’s story telling that’s her passion. She’s especially passionate about social media and creative platforms to tell stories. Her most recent experiment is being a FAA certified drone pilot. As a proud Texan she says she’s made of country music, Southern hospitality and Sweet Tea. When she’s not at work you can find her trying new recipes, listening to crime podcasts, reading the latest romance novel or rockin’ out to live music with friends. She says she’s only a tweet or Facebook message away, so say hi and send her the latest on your community. @MonicaHarkinstv or Mharkins@wtvq.com