Belfast Telegraph

Brave Leona Reid's heroic efforts for cancer charity go on thanks to support of women's group

By Donna Deeney

A group of women in Londonderry are to ensure the legacy of a young cancer victim is not forgotten as they make wigs for children undergoing chemotherapy in her memory.

Leona Reid had planned to enter the world of journalism when she finished university.

But sadly this was not to be the case after the bright 22-year-old from the Drumahoe area was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The cancer cut short Leona's life and she passed away in April 2016.

Despite the battle she had with cancer, Leona's passion for writing continued for as long as her illness.

Nor did it deter Leona's enthusiasm for raising funds for the Little Princess Trust, which makes wigs for children who lose their hair either from the effects of chemotherapy or through other illnesses.

This year's President of the Londonderry Soroptimists, Mary McLaughlin, is a family friend of the Reids and has continued Leona's incredible fundraising efforts in her memory - something Leona requested herself before she passed away.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Leona's mother Janice said her daughter would have been so pleased that the charity will continue to benefit.

Mrs Reid said: "When Leona decided to do something she put all her energy into it. That was just her nature so when she knew she was going to get chemotherapy and would lose her own hair she said she wanted some good to come of it.

"Leona could have sat on her hair it was that long, so she decided to donate it to the Little Princess Trust who make wigs for children.

"She had to raise £300 because that's how much it cost to make each wig so Leona set up a justgiving page.

"I remember so well it was on a Saturday night and by the Monday morning £1,500 was donated and it just escalated from there until she had £4,000 raised," her mum added.

Leona managed all this while dealing with her own diagnosis which came completely out of the blue and shocked everyone, even her mum who is a nurse.

Mrs Reid recalled: "Leona was diagnosed in late summer 2015, but she didn't have any of the classical symptoms.

"In fact we had such an amazing summer. We went to New York in June for Leona's 21st and it was just incredible.

"In August she was getting ready to go back to university in Dundee when she developed a sore throat that would not go away even with antibiotics.

"Her GP in Dundee sent her for tests and she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

"Back home with us, Leona was being treated with chemotherapy at Altnagelvin Hospital, but it didn't work.

"We were told there was nothing that could be done.

"After we got that news we had 13 weeks with Leona and we cherished every second we had and that is something we are grateful for.

"I know there are so many parents whose children are taken from them without warning so the time we had with Leona is something we treasure."

Mary McLaughlin supported both Leona and her mother through the painful experience.

"Janice and I work for the Western Trust and have been friends for so many years that our small team were just devastated when we heard about Leona," she said.

"I was able to ask Leona what charity she would like the Soroptimists to help while I was president and she chose the Little Princess Trust.

"So far with the help of so many others in the Western Trust and the Eglinton Quizzers, who donated their draw money for five weeks, we have raised another £2,200 which we hope to add to.

"The final amount will be sent to the charity in Leona's memory and along with her mum, I know Leona would be delighted."

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