Former NFL player Devon Still's cancer fight didn't end when his daughter went into remission

Former Cincinnati Bengals player Devon Still showed his support for the cancer fight of his 4-year-old daughter, Leah, by having her name on his face tape during warm-up before a game against the Cleveland Browns in November 2014. Leah is now entering her third year in remission. (Photo: John Sommers/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

When Devon’s Still’s daughter, Leah, was in the midst of her fight against stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer, Still was faced with a choice: Stick by his daughter’s hospital bedside or keep working — as a pro football player — to pay her medical bills.

It’s a seemingly impossible choice, but one so many parents and loved ones of people fighting cancer are forced to make. That’s why Still, who retired from the National Football League in December (an uncommon move for a player still early in his career), and whose daughter is in remission, is focusing his energy on his Still Strong Foundation.

The foundation, which the former Bengals defensive tackle launched in 2015, provides grants for non-medical expenses to families who are battling cancer.

“When Leah was sick, I had to go back to Cincinnati so I could still afford my bills,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle ahead of Super Bowl Sunday and World Cancer Day, which fall on the same day this year. “So I didn’t want other families to feel the pain I felt when I left her bedside.”

In addition to events similar to those organized by the NFL’s Crucial Catch initiative, Still’s foundation rallies players to visit sick children in the hospital, as well as to fundraise for grant money. Last year, the Still Strong Foundation held its first annual “For Our Children” charity gala, which raised $45,000 for families, and its second gala is scheduled for March.

“With a foundation, you don’t only need words of encouragement, but an open checkbook. I can only do so much with my own funds, but its success also depends on the donations that people give,” Still says. “I would tell people, ‘Don’t wait till someone in your family is affected by the disease.’ We can advance the fight against cancer, but we need help.”

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