"I want to tell you I'm so sorry to hear about your beautiful daughter Azaylia ... you tell that little lion that I say 'Let's go, champ," Johnson said in a video message to the MTV star.
Published Apr 12, 2021
‘The Challenge’ star Ashley Cain, 30, and his wife, Safiyya Vorajeeare, 33, are comforting their baby daughter Azaylia who has ‘days to live’ as the 8-month old reaches the end stage of her battle with leukemia. The heartbroken dad is “humbled” by the support from people all over the world, especially from one special person in particular.
Cain shared a video of actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, 48, one of his heroes, offering him comforting words in a video message.
“I’m so proud of my little girl and so humbled by the impact she’s had on so many people around the world,” the buff TV personality wrote alongside Johnson’s video. “From one of my hero’s to another… Let’s Go Champ!”
In his video, Johnson said that he rarely checks his direct messages, but a friend had messaged him and directed him to the suffering father’s page.
“Hey brother Ashley, DJ here. First of all, the universe and God works in powerful, amazing, beautiful, mysterious ways,” Johnson began. “I want to tell you I’m so sorry to hear about your beautiful daughter Azaylia, I hope I pronounced her name right, you tell that little lion that I say ‘Let’s go, champ.'”
Fans have donated around 1.5 million on the family’s GoFundMe page, which was the amount they had needed to go along with a special treatment plan in Singapore, but ultimately learned that they would not be able to do it.
“Our beautiful daughter Azaylia Diamond Cain was just eight weeks old when we got the heartbreaking news that she had been diagnosed with AML Leukaemia,” the fundraising post read. “On diagnosis Azaylia had a frighteningly high leukemia count plus tumours in her spleen, stomach, lungs and kidneys which put her in critical condition and resulted in her being put into intensive care.”
“The doctors warned us that there was a high probability that she wouldn’t survive past the first round of chemotherapy due to the aggressiveness and rareness of her disease combined with her age. Yet she surprised them and us all with her strength and courage by pulling through not only 1, but 2 rounds of chemotherapy with very little side effects.”
After going through challenge after challenge, they kept pushing through, but ultimately learned that the chemotherapy wasn’t working for the little fighter. Next, they found a match for her to undergo a bone marrow transplant, which Azaylia went through in early January, but still had traces of leukemia.
“After long discussions and a global outreach for treatment, our [doctors] along with consultants from around the world have come to the conclusion that the ONLY option to save Azaylia’s life is to fly to Singapore for CAR-T therapy plus a haplo transplant, for a minimum period of 1 year.” A haploidentical transplant is a partially-matched stem cell transplant typically from a family member.
Because of the aggressiveness of the disease, they were told at the end of March that they had to fly to Singapore within the coming weeks and would need 1 million pounds (around $1.5 million) with an initial deposit of £500,000 just to be accepted into the hospital’s program.
This is the couple’s first child and not only have they battled this disease along with their daughter, but they also have gone through it amid all the COVID restrictions, which made life exponentially harder for them.
After pleading for the help that they deserve, they promised that they would give back with the donations they received. “We will be donating any extra money to other children and their families in the same situation as us – we pledged to give back to this community from the moment we were thrust into it and that is something we will always honour,” they said. “Thank you all for your energy, love, support and prayers – it lifts us and carries us through this terrifying journey.”
Tragically, the doctors in Singapore say that they “can’t create a CAR-T” for Azaylia’s leukemia due to “too much pressure in her head” from the tumor, and the devastated father relayed that going through a spinal tap (which removes and examines spinal fluid) would kill her. According to the National Cancer Institute, CAR-T treatment is customized for each patient using their T cells, “which are genetically modified to enhance their ability to recognize and attack cancer cells.”
Leukemia is a blood cancer. Acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, starts in the bone marrow (the soft inner part of the bones), but usually quickly moves into the blood, according to the American Cancer Society, and can spread to other parts of the body like the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), which is what happened to little Azaylia.
Leukemia develops when the body produces large quantities of abnormal white blood cells. Because they’re abnormal, they prevent the bone marrow from producing any other type of cell, namely red blood cells and platelets.
Dr. Nina Shah, a hematologist at University of California San Francisco, explains blood cancers in a simple way. “One cell got really selfish and decided that it needed to take up all the resources of everybody else, and in doing so, took up space and energy from the rest of the body.”
“In general having a blood cancer means that your bone marrow is not functioning correctly,” she continues. “And when your bone marrow doesn’t function correctly it means that you can have something happen to you like anemia. Or you can have low platelets, which makes it possible for you to bleed easily. Or your immune system is not functioning correctly.”