Evan Leo, now 12, has been playing baseball since he was 5. In 2019, he joined a year-round traveling baseball team based in Tewksbury, Mass., where he played second base and outfield, and loved running around and making plays with his friends. By early 2021, he was practicing three times a week and coming into his own on the field. But in February of that year, he started experiencing some pain in his legs that made him limp during practice. After a couple of appointments where doctors didn’t know what was wrong, the Leo family ended up in the hospital to try to help manage Evan’s pain. A few hours and tests later, Evan’s mom, Nicole, got news she never thought she’d hear.
“As a mom, I knew something wasn’t right,” Nicole says. “Evan hated going to the doctor, but the pain was so bad he was asking me to go. We were so emotional when we got the news.”
Evan was diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), a rare cancer disorder that caused tumors in his leg and chest. His parents took him to Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic, where he soon had a port put in and started receiving chemotherapy treatments weekly for 12 weeks, before switching to every three weeks once his leg started to get better.
“I was in total shock when I found out, and I was worried about losing my hair and about all the medicine I would have to take,” Evan remembers. “But I felt so welcomed by the doctors and nurses at the Jimmy Fund Clinic. I realized it didn’t have to be scary.”
Evan was on crutches or in a wheelchair at times during his initial treatment, sidelining him from his baseball team, the Nor’Easters, which was the worst part of treatment for him. But the true teammates they are, the Nor’Easters rallied around Evan and his family from the beginning, creating T-shirts with his number, 4, to raise money and help his family. They even had “Evan Leo Day” on May 29, when all of the teams competing in their league wore shirts with Evan’s number.
“Seeing Evan’s baseball team support him the way they did was unbelievable. He had already started his season before his diagnosis, so Evan was so crushed when he was told he couldn’t finish, but the team did everything to still make him part of the season,” Nicole says. “When we went to the tournament on May 29, seeing all of the parents and players wearing these shirts in the hotels and on the baseball field was the most touching thing.”
“It was really cool to see people I didn’t even know coming together to help strike out cancer—for me and other kids,” adds Evan.
Evan is finishing up his regular treatment this spring, but will still visit the Jimmy Fund Clinic every three months for the next two years to make sure his cancer stays at bay. He’s looking forward to getting back out on the field and to helping other patients defy cancer from the baseball diamond as the 2022 patient partner for Jimmy Fund Little League, where teams like his can fundraise for the Jimmy Fund from the baseball field.
Support patients like Evan by joining The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at DefyCancer.org.