'It still brings me to tears': Mother recalls how St. Jude helped daughter

'It still brings me to tears': Mother recalls how St. Jude helped daughter
Leah takes a look around the Dream Home.

MOSELEY, VA (WWBT) - Kate Duggan's daughter, Leah, is now a happy and active 8-year-old girl who lives in Richmond. But just a few years ago, Leah's life was hanging by a thread.

"When you're holding your 18-month-old baby and being told that you're out of options, it's devastating," said a tearful Kate Duggan. "It's absolutely devastating. It's an unreal feeling."

The Duggans recently visited the St. Jude Dream Home being built in Moseley - a project that raises money to help sick children and their families.

"This is the master bedroom I think," giggled Leah as she walked through the Dream Home, admiring the dual closets in the master bedroom.

"I have one word: awesome!"

When Leah was a baby, she didn't respond to chemotherapy, and the doctors she had seen ran out of options.

"I was one of those moms," said Kate Duggan. "I just couldn't sleep. I was up all night. I was reading clinical trials. I was doing research."

That's when Leah's mom found St. Jude, and finally, hope.

"There were several times when we would go into different hospitals, and we were exploring different treatment plans and it never feels quite right," said Duggan. "There was a heaviness in my chest. It was hard to explain. But, when I went to St. Jude, it all melted away … They were able to use my stem cells and pull out what would have hurt her ... I was able to attack her cancer cells and save her life."

"It's still brings me to tears, and it's been years," said Duggan. "You know it was like the lowest lows and the darkest days of my life and that was one of the brightest."

Leah got her transplant on St. Patrick's Day and as luck (or fate, or maybe even faith) would have it, she's now cancer free.

Now, she's a straight-A student and very busy.

"Gymnastics, and I did soccer and I did baseball," said Leah.

St. Jude still monitors her progress annually and takes care of watching her. She is still very much part of their family.

"They gave her a standing ovation, and she literally cartwheeled down the hall. It was one of those things that literally brought us all to tears," said Kate Duggan.

The money that is raised during the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway will help children like Leah continue to receive free treatments.

"She is a walking, living, cartwheeling, laughing, breathing miracle," Duggan said of Leah.

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