They call her Princess Leyha. She loves everything princess-ey - the costumes and the tiaras.
But the battle she is involved in now is far from a fairy tale. Leyha Jane Bartels, age 5, is fighting neuroblastoma.
Leyha and her parents, Jason Bartels and Catherine Stewart, of Brady, left the North Platte Regional Airport on Wednesday on their way to Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
On Oct. 30, the 5-year-old will be injected with liquid radiation in an attempt to blast the cancer cells invading her bone marrow. Leyha's 3-year-old brother Hunter is staying home with family members.
Family and friends wearing "Team Leyha" T-shirts were at the airport to send prayers and good wishes along on the trip. Members of the National Guard from the North Platte Armory presented Leyha with a knapsack full of games and treats to help pass the hours she will be in the hospital.
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Leyha was first diagnosed with neuroblastoma in January 2010 at age 3. After 10 months of treatment, including the removal of a tumor from her adrenal gland, she went into remission until last May when she began to complain of pain.
It was the worst possible news. The cancer had returned.
"She's really a happy little girl," Stewart said. "The love she has for life is really contagious. No matter how bad she feels, she is always happy. Her favorite color is red and she loves getting cards."
Neuroblastoma is a malignant tumor that develops from nerve tissue. It usually occurs in infants and children.
The family is going to Cincinnati because that is where the procedure, known as MIBG is done.
"There are only a few hospitals in the country that do this treatment," said her grandmother Kathy Bartels. "They will inject radiation right into her bone marrow and she will have to lie in bed for a week, surrounded by lead shields. It all sounds so scary and creepy and terrible. Anybody who has dealt with cancer knows that chemotherapy makes you so sick you want to die. It's terrible to see this tiny body so assaulted. She was so proud when she started kindergarten and feels terrible that she doesn't feel well enough to go to school."
Obviously weak and in pain, Leyha was content to snuggle on her grandmother Sue Spurgin's lap until it was time to board the flight. Family members fought tears as they lined up to kiss her goodbye.
As the family prepares to battle the cancer, friends and family are mustering forces at home to help. Last week, the Brady chapter of the FCCLA hosted a sloppy joe supper and raised $1,700 to help with expenses.
Shawna Davison is a cancer survivor and longtime friend of Bartels. She contacted local media about Leyha's fight against cancer.
"I would like to get the word out for prayers for the family," she said.
There is an account set up in Leyha's name at NebraskaLand National Bank. Her aunt Angel Hoffman has set up a Facebook page, "Prayers for Leyha Jane Bartels," where friends and family can see updates on her treatment and condition and order a "Team Leyha" T-shirt.
Friends have organized a benefit on Nov. 19 at the Rail Bar in North Platte. More details will be announced later. Cards may be sent to P.O. Box 42, Brady, NE 69123.
"The bottom line is that she believes Jesus is in her heart and that Jesus will take care of her," Bartels said. "If anybody believes, she believes. She prays the cancer will be gone and really feels like she can beat it. I guess that's half the battle. If she believes, how can we not believe with her?"