Visit each other nearly ever day after meeting at cancer wing
After surviving cancer, a Hahnville makeup artist has forged a special relationship with an 11-year-old now fighting her own long-standing battle against the disease.
Meghan Schexnayder, 27, visits Bailey Leon almost every day as the tween continues a roughly 5-year-long battle against incurable neuroblastoma.
“It’s so funny because they’re quite a few years apart, but they’re still very much alike,” Brooke Leon-Reed, Bailey’s mother, said.
It was during her own treatments for bone cancer that Schexnayder met the little girl. Though diagnosed at 24, Schexnayder’s illness was classified as a pediatric form of cancer, putting her in the same wing of Ochsner Medical Center for treatment as Leon. Leon was introduced to Schexnayder by one of the nurses at the hospital.
“It just touched my heart,” Schexnayder said.
During their visits, the two engage in conversation and play with makeup. Schexnayder, who is a freelance makeup artist, lets the little girl paint her face in bright colors. Leon occasionally insists that the medical staff, including her doctor, submit to colorful makeovers.
“Bailey sometimes requires that we do things that are a little unorthodox“ Leon’s doctor, Robert Vasquez, said. “She’s painted my nails, had me wear wigs, makeup, things like that.”
Schexnayder today walks on an artificial knee, femur and partial hip as the result of osteosarcoma, or bone cancer. She shows off a scar that spans the length of her thigh.
“I didn’t really have anyone to relate through when I was going through my own chemo,” Schexnayder said. “I know first hand how [Bailey] is feeling when she is miserable, she’s tired, she’s sick. I know because I’ve been there. When I talk to her, when she talks to me, we understand each other.”
Schexnayder was teaching modeling runway courses and building a career as a makeup artist when she was diagnosed with cancer.
“When I got diagnosed…it halted my life, it put a stop to everything,” Schexnayder said. “I basically lived in a hospital for a year and a half.”
After Schexnayder’s original treatments and surgeries, she was declared cancer free. Then, last December, another mass was detected on her lungs.
The mass was removed through surgery and Schexnayder has been taking pills as a preventative measure.
Those pills cost $2,000 a month.
In spite of her own fight, Schexnayder said that it is Leon that continues to inspire her.
“Don’t wait until it happens to somebody that you love,” Schexnayder said. “Take the time now to care for somebody, to donate money, to care about cancer.”
Those wishing to donate to help with Bailey Leon’s treatments can do so at www.bucksforbailey.com. Meanwhile, Schexnayder encourages people to give to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or donate blood and platelets.
Patients like Leon receive three to four blood transfusions a week.