HER story moved the nation to raise £1.5million in less than 24 hours to fund specialist treatment in Singapore and saw thousands across the world follow her struggle for life.
Then since Azaylia Cain tragically died from acute myeloid leukaemia by her parents’ side aged just eight months, the legacy she has left behind is nothing short of inspiring.
In their only newspaper interview since losing their daughter, Ashley Cain and his partner Safiyya Vorajee say every day is a battle to carry on.
But they have vowed to keep fighting in her name to help other children and their families who are going through the same ordeal.
To honour her memory, Ashley and Safiyya today launch The Azaylia Foundation, which, among its many aims, will alert other parents to the symptoms of the disease.
Ashley, 30 — a former winger with Coventry City and a contestant on MTV reality show Ex On The Beach — says: “This will be the most traumatic and terrible journey for so many people.
“We want to honour Azaylia’s legacy to help others. This is about getting children and their families through the worst time of their lives.
“These cancers are only rare because no one is talking about them and raising awareness. We have a new purpose in life.
“Helping other children in Azaylia’s name means more to us than the air in our lungs.”
Azaylia was just eight weeks old when she was diagnosed with AML last October. At first she made good progress, but although her parents succeeded in raising enough money to fly her to Singapore for the treatment, she became too unwell to go.
Her plight became worldwide news, with several huge landmarks illuminated — including Blackpool Tower, and the CN Tower and Niagara Falls in Canada — to raise awareness of Azaylia’s illness.
And A-list stars around the world got in touch, including wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who told the couple his heart broke for them.
Ashley and Safiyya chose to share every step of their journey, including the days leading up to Azaylia’s death.
She died peacefully with her parents by her side at their home in Nuneaton, Warwickshire in April.
Her resting place, near their house, has now become like a second home.
Safiyya, 34, says: “I call it her garden, I can’t call it anything else. I can’t call it the other word.
“Going to her garden, I want her to see that we are still there.
“We have her toys there and I light her candle every night. Ashley and I both buy fresh flowers every week to make sure it always looks nice.
“Sometimes when I get anxiety and I am having a bad day I go down to sit with her because I get her strength.
“Sometimes I go down there five times a day, for four hours at a time. I know her body is there. It gives me comfort.”
Heartbreakingly, when Azaylia was first ill, she was sent home by doctors three times before the couple were finally told she had AML.
Now they want to ensure that all parents know the signs to watch out for, and just as importantly, they want to raise money for further research, after having to see their own baby treated with adult drugs.
Ashley recalls: “I was told I could not change my daughter’s nappy without gloves on, because the chemo can come out in her urine and waste.
“If I can’t have that diluted version touch me, how can an eight-week-old baby have it pumped into her body through her veins, put into her organs? It is absolutely crazy.”
Safiyya adds: “Babies cannot eat adult food but they are being given adult chemotherapy. It is so distressing to know that they are using such a toxic chemical on your baby.
“When adults are struggling, imagine how the baby must feel.”
Along with raising awareness and funds for treatment, Ashley and Safiyya say they hope the money will help other families when they are struggling.
Azaylia spent much of her short life being cared for at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, with Ashley and Safiyya staying in a hotel next door so they could be with her.
The situation was hard financially but they scraped through and now want to be able to help parents in similar circumstances.
Ashley says: “We want to be able to provide support for these children and their families. We know others won’t be as fortunate in their networks as we are, and these children need financial support.
“We haven’t taken a penny of this money personally. We will use it instead to help others less fortunate and their children.”
The pain that the couple have endured is etched on their faces but Ashley says it is Azaylia’s strength which keeps them going.
He continues: “I thought I had to be positive for my daughter, but she was the one who got us through this.
“Azaylia was the one who got over 150,000 donors on the (stem cell) register, which could help thousands of children’s lives.
“Azaylia was the one who inspired a nation going through Covid, the one who got £1.5million in a GoFundMe, which will go on to save hundreds if not thousands of children across this country.
"If that is not a heroic figure to look up to, I don’t know what is.
“We say we will never be able to achieve in our lifetimes what Azaylia achieved in eight months.
“Safiyya and I have bad days but we pick each other up. This has made us stronger and has brought us closer together, because we still have a part of Azaylia with us.”
The couple like to share their most treasured memories of their daughter, affectionately nicknamed Lickle Lion, and Safiyya says: “When the hospital told us Azaylia wouldn’t make a milestone, and then she did, those are some of my favourite memories.
“She was blowing them all out of the water. She could sit up, she could eat, she made every milestone and she did it all with grace.
“I loved bath times too. I would do my crazy mummy dance and she would watch me. We’d dance to the Spice Girls. She loved it.”
Ashley adds: “I’d stay in the hospital overnight and in the morning I’d wake up, look over and she would be there looking at me.
“As soon as I opened my eyes she would greet me with the biggest smile, and that was enough to power me for the whole day.
“We danced through all our troubles. We tried to make happy all of the sad moments.
“We learned how to stand up, how to roll over, and she said, ‘Dada’ — that made my life. My life’s goal is done.
“It is such a special moment. She made me the happiest man alive.”
Ashley and Safiyya, who started dating in 2020, have big plans for The Azaylia Foundation, but for now, they want to reach out to others going through the same pain that they endured.
Ashley says: “You can’t take your child’s illness away but you can control the energy around them.
“Invest your time and energy and make the most of every second.
“Give your child belief, inspiration and hope — that will keep them powering through.”
- For more information and to donate visit theazayliafoundation.com.
HOW HER FIGHT WON THE WORLD’S HEART
NOVEMBER 2020: More than 150,000 people join the bone marrow register after parents Ashley and Safiyya make a plea for donors on The Sun Online.
MARCH 2021: Ashley raises £1.5million in 24 hours with GoFundMe to send Azaylia to Singapore for treatment. Sadly it is revealed she is too ill to travel soon after.
APRIL 11: Hollywood star Dwayne Johnson sends an emotional message to Ashley and Safiyya after hearing their story.
APRIL 13: Thousands join a clap for Azaylia across the UK and the world.
APRIL 16-18: Landmarks across the world, including Blackpool Tower, the CN Tower and Niagara Falls, light up orange for Azaylia to raise awareness of her illness, acute myeloid leukaemia.
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