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Kids with courage: Metro four-year-old battling cancer on the road to recovery

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla --

At a time when most kids are enjoying play dates with friends, an Oklahoma City toddler was in the fight of her life with childhood cancer.

Livi loves to dance and play, but the past year has been an unexpected journey for the four-year-old and her mom.

The journey started when Livi's mother Niki Bobo, noticed unusual swelling all over daughter's face.

"Her eyes were swollen pretty bad, and they were beyond, like puffy bags, it was like her whole eye was swollen," Bobo said.

Lacking health insurance, Bobo kept taking her three-year-old daughter to urgent care clinics hoping for answers. She kept being told Livi had sinus problems.

"But they still never assessed her or ran any tests, or any blood work or anything. None of that happened until we actually seen her actual doctor," Bobo said.

Frustrated, Bobo eventually brought her daughter to a pediatrician who felt lumps on the toddler's neck.

"He immediately just looked at her, and looked at us, and said he didn't want to scare us, but it looked like it could be pretty cancerous," Bobo said.

The doctor sent the family to the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer in The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center.  Even then, Bobo could not imagine how serious her daughter's medical condition was.

"I just thought we were being admitted because she was sick. I just thought, I still wasn't thinking it was cancer," Bobo said.

A battery of medical tests confirmed her worst fear, her daughter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a type of childhood cancer that attacks the blood and bone marrow.

"Leukemia can sometimes occur in addition to causing fever, fatigue, and really not feeling good ... can sometimes cause really swollen glands in the neck", said Dr. Chinni  Pokala. Pokala treats Livi at the hospital.

A team of specialists started the toddler on an intense round of chemotherapy. Within a month, her cancer was in remission. Pokala is hopeful Lily's cancer remains in remission.

"Kids like her, who respond well to therapy generally have cure rates of well above 92 percent. So, it's our expectation that she's going to be a long-term survivor," Pokala said.

Livi still checks in twice a month for blood work and maintenance treatments. From time to time, she has a spinal tap to make sure she's still in remission.

The road to recovery has not been easy for Lily or her family. Bobo thinks about when Livi was first admitted to the hospital.

"It's just been an emotional month because I know it's coming up in a year, so every time I think about it I always cry about it, but not sad tears at all," Bobo said.

Bobo cries tears of happiness knowing her little girl is doing well. Without the help of the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer she is not sure the family could have handled the burden of her daughter's treatments, Bobo said.

To learn more about the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer or to donate to the effort to cure cancer in Oklahoma children, visit JECfriends.org.