Karli Leonard, Pediatric Cancer Survivor

“You have cancer” are three words you never want to hear in your life, especially if you’re only twelve years old.

That’s how old I was when I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer and it flipped my life upside down. My worries were no longer about normal teenager things like what clothes I was wearing, but instead, what new side effect was going to hit me after each chemo treatment. Having to quickly grow up and fight for my life was something I would’ve never anticipated as a child, but no one ever anticipates getting cancer.

I spent a little over a year in treatment and it was a roller coaster of emotions. I got to meet some of the greatest doctors and nurses in the world that became my family, kids that were also going through treatment that changed my life in so many ways, and a hospital staff that made each stay bearable. But, I endured some of the worst pain, had multiple nights where I couldn’t fall asleep because of pain or my beeping IV pump kept me up, saw the worst of cancer and have lasting memories I wish I could erase. Despite all the troubles I went through, I wouldn’t change a thing. What I went through made me who I am today and that’s something that I cherish. I live each day appreciating all that’s around me, life is more beautiful and the little things bring me so much joy.

To help bring this same joy to other children, my mom, Karen, a fellow cancer survivor, Whitney Goldstein, Whitney’s Mom, Geri, and I started a fundraising walk to help raise funds to support the Haley Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

Arnie's March Against Children's Cancer is held annually during the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. The walk provides an opportunity to recognize and honor cancer fighters, their families, Arnold Palmer Hospital staff, and supporters.

Every year, my Mom and I captain a team to raise money for Arnie’s March. We know first-hand how much support the doctors, scientists and researchers need to fight cancer. Over the past five years our team, Karli’s Angels, has raised more than $65,000 to help the fight continue.

Through Arnie’s March, we are:

  • Helping the sickest children in our community have access to the best possible care
  • Keep kids and their families together as they battle this awful disease
  • Directly support the cancer research and clinical trials taking place at Arnold Palmer Hospital every day
  • Make it possible to host more than 70 clinical trials every year, the largest number of trials in Florida
I learned that cancer will not define the rest of my life. I have lived as normal a life as anyone else and I continue to do so. Right now, I am a sophomore in college at The University of North Florida and I am majoring in Psychology to one day become a child life specialist. I am living the life that I fought hard for and I give all my thanks to the amazing doctors and nurses at Arnold Palmer Hospital that got me here.

Join us on Tuesday, March 13 as we raise much-needed funds for the Haley Center for Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders at Arnold Palmer Hospital by creating or joining a fundraising team, making a donation and registering to march at ArniesMarchOrlando.com.

January 29, 2018