Wednesday, April 24, 2013

There's something extraordinary about the number 25: Lelia and Team In Training

Bob and Lelia with fellow TNT'ers at
the Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Half Marathon in 2003.
 This year, there's something quite extraordinary about the number twenty-five. Team In Training will commemorate it's 25th anniversary. Lelia Emery (Huber), one of the Georgia Chapter's first Honored Heroes, will celebrate her 25th birthday. And to perfectly complete this trio of events, Bob Huber, father of Lelia and avid LLS volunteer will complete his 25th Team In Training event. Just a coincidence? We think not.

In 1988, Bruce Cleland started a movement when he got a team together to train for the New York City Marathon and raise funds to support leukemia research. To honor his baby daughter Georgia's battle with leukemia, Bruce and his team of 38 runners raised $322,000 for LLS's Westchester/Hudson Valley Chapter. From this effort, Team In Training was born; now 25 years later, the program has prepared more than 570,000 athletes who have raised more than $1.32 billion to support blood cancer research and patient services.

Little Lelia during treatment.
One of the first Honored Heroes from the Georgia Chapter of TNT was Lelia Emery (Huber). Lelia was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in 1991, when she was just 2 ½ years old. She was hospitalized and immediately began receiving aggressive chemotherapy. Lelia's medication was called Methotrexate, which her family renamed "Pickle Juice" due to its green color. Finding ways to make treatment fun, Lelia also decided to name her chemo pump Seymour. Seven and a half years after being diagnosed, Lelia, ten years of age, was considered cancer free. Today, Lelia is a healthy young woman who will soon celebrate her 25th birthday. She lives in Columbus, Ohio and recently returned from a cruise where she and her husband enjoyed their first wedding anniversary.

As a Team Honored Hero, there were many TNT participants training in Lelia's honor. One day she looked at her dad, Bob Huber, and asked, "When are YOU going to do something in my honor?" That was all it took and Bob was officially signed up for his first Team In Training event, the Bermuda Marathon, in 1999. Since that year, Bob has completed twelve events as a participant and coached an additional twelve events for TNT. The North Face Endurance Challenge Series Georgia 50K will mark Bob's 25th event with TEAM. Who knew a simple request from a child would create such an amazing journey? Bob has also participated in LLS's Man & Woman of the Year campaign and is a dedicated LLS volunteer.

Here's a short Q&A with Lelia...

Little Lelia and Bob
Do you have any siblings?
Yes, a brother who is 3 ½ years younger. I was just getting my hair back when he was born.

What symptoms did you experience before you were diagnosed?

I was pale, lethargic and basically everything opposite of a typical two-year-old child. My parents took me to see their friend, who was an ER doctor. He suggested we go to the hospital immediately.

Describe your treatment protocol.

I spent the first month of treatment in the hospital. I was then released and continued to receive chemotherapy from home for about six months. I spiked a fever after each and every chemo treatment. I had 2 ½ years of treatment and 5 years of checkups every 3-6 months after being in remission. After 7 ½ years, I was considered cancer free and was told the chance of cancer returning was slim. I continued with extensive check-ups until I was 17 to ensure I did not experience side effects from the chemotherapy and treatments.

Since you were so young during treatment, what memories do you have from that time?

Two memories that stand out in my mind are my fear of receiving a spinal tap and running through the hospital hallways with a friend I met in the hospital.

Bob and Leila on her wedding day.
Do you have any suggestions for other children who have cancer and are going through treatment?

When I was young, I kept my cancer diagnosis a secret and only told my close friends. I suggest finding people that you can be yourself around. Don’t be afraid to be weird, angry, etc. Talk with a Child Life Specialist so they can get to know you. They can be some of your best help!

How did your dad get involved with Team In Training?

Being a TNT Honored Hero, there were so many people doing such great things for me. One day, I turned to my dad and asked when HE was going to do something for me!

Have you done a Team In Training event?

Yes, in 2003, when I was 14 years old, my dad and I did the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach ½ Marathon. I had such a great time and it was so rewarding!

Where did you attend college?

I graduated from the University of Alabama and am now a Board Certified Music Therapist.

Do you feel your experiences growing up influenced your career choice?

Yes. I attended Camp Sunshine where I met many people who helped me in a variety of ways. I also had friends who worked with music therapists and I saw how much it helped them. I had an internship at a children’s hospital and an adolescent juvenile detention center. I always knew I wanted to give back!

Are you currently working?

Yes, I teach classes at Gymboree.

What are your hobbies?

I love playing with my 4-year-old dog, Grayson.

What are your goals for the next 10 years?

I would like to work as a music therapist. Have 1 or 2 children and I would love to do another TNT event.


  1. What an incredible story!! Thank you for publishing! This family was my next door neighbor for over 3 years and they are just as wonderful as they seem!!

  2. Go, Bob & Lelia!! Hugs to both of you!