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South Bend girl beats cancer and inspires others

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An 11-year-old South Bend girl battles a rare form of leukemia... and beats it. It's all part of WSBT's "Eye on Kids" series.

Daija Lawson's parents were devastated when she was diagnosed with leukemia. But Daija's faith and upbeat personality got her through this difficult time and now she's stronger than ever.

You can see it in her face and hear it in her laughter... the love Daija Lawson has for animals.

"They have a special nature in them, they see things we don't see," she said.

But last year, Daija couldn't be around pets. She was too sick.

"She developed fevers for maybe about two weeks and she kept running a temperature," said Daija's mom, Sonsaray Lawson.

At first doctors thought it was something minor, but after weeks of treatment and no response, a test revealed Daija had a rare form of leukemia.

"I was devastated, there's no words to explain it, to hear something of that nature," Sonsaray said. "It's just devastating and my immediate thought was we have to take care of this."

Daija was immediately taken to Riley Hospital in Indianapolis.

"I was scared at first, but then I noticed all the nurses and doctors were nice and I got to have fun there it wasn't just all cancer I got to have fun," Daija said.

She underwent five months of chemotherapy. Her mom says she had a smile on her face through it all.

"Her mentality won't let things break her down, she's a fighter that's how I was able to get thru it because of her fight," Sonsaray said.

Daija is now cancer free. She's been in remission since last August.

"I just want to say just believing in God, he's your best bet right now," she said.

Inspired by this little girl's spirit, a veterinarian at Clayview Animal Clinic in South Bend set up a fundraiser to help Daija's family with expenses.

"Times are hard and everyone is trying to make it and for them to reach out and help that's a blessing," Sonsaray said. "I really appreciate everyone that has helped my family."

Meanwhile, Daija has gotten to know some of the animals brought in by clients and with the cancer behind her, she's more determined than ever to pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian.

"I'm extremely proud of her," her mother said.

Daija is one of many children helped by Riley Hospital and you can support it by visiting IHOP Tuesday for National Pancake Day. In exchange for free pancakes, the restaurant will ask customers to donate five dollars to the hospital. Guests who donate will also get five dollars off their next visit.

The fundraiser for Daija at Clayview Animal Clinic will continue through the week or so. So far, they've raised about $1,000. To learn about other ways to help Daija, visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prayers-for-Daija/497402473679958?fref=ts.

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