Three years ago, one of Beth Leeper's aunts was doing Beth's hair when she felt a strange lump behind one of Beth's ears. "She pushed on it and it hurt," Beth says. When Beth later went to the doctor for immunizations, she had a blood sample taken. "A few weeks later, they called my mom at work and said that I might have leukemia," Beth tells us.
A second blood test at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus confirmed that fear. The news sent 12-year-old Beth into a tailspin. "When they first told me that I had leukemia, I cried," Beth tells us. "One of my relatives passed away from brain cancer, and so when a 12-year-old child hears that they have cancer … they just think they're going to die. And that's what I thought was going to happen to me."
After her diagnosis, Beth embarked on a "long and hard" treatment battle that included several rounds of chemotherapy. And while she didn’t know at the time whether those treatments were going to "cure me or make things worse," Beth says she did know that her Mayo care team was doing everything they could to help her understand what was happening. "All of my doctors and nurses were great," she says. "They really took the time to explain everything to me thoroughly."
Even though she's now in remission, Beth tells us she'll never forget how difficult her treatment journey was, especially when it came to missing out on special days. "Spending a holiday in the hospital is tough," says Beth, who spent birthdays and holidays away from home while getting treatment. "I had to spend New Year's Eve in the hospital," she tells us. "I had my sister to bring me movies, streamers, games, and other stuff like that, but not everyone has that."
And that's why for the past few weeks, Beth has been working to raise money to buy presents for Mayo's pediatric patients who will be spending Christmas in the hospital this year "so they can hopefully still have somewhat of a proper Christmas," she tells us.
To do that, Beth created a page on Facebook and invited "like 300 people" to see if anyone would be willing to help. It wasn't long, she says, before the donations started rolling in. "I've received both gift and money donations," she says. And she knows without question what she wants those gifts to accomplish for Mayo's young patients. "I just hope they help brighten their day and their holiday, and that they're something they and their families will remember," Beth says. "I just want them to have a good Christmas."
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