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Mom of young cancer survivor starts charity to pay it forward

Layla and her mom started a charity to help other families pay for expensive medical bills. Layla's about to turn 5-years-old next week and she's already cancer free.

Layla Beckstrand is quite the little card shark. The 4-year-old lays down a full house and her mother, Jessica, can only laugh.

"I told you I always win," exclaimed Layla. 

"I know, I know," her mom replied.

Unlike in poker, though, Layla was dealt a bad hand as a baby.

You get good at card games when you've spent so much of your life in the hospital.

"It was a long haul," said Jessica.

Layla was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma that had spread to her bones when she was just 18 months old.

"Doctors say your child has cancer and you literally don't hear anything after that point," said Jessica.

Layla spent almost a year undergoing chemo, radiation, blood transfusions and two stem cell transplants.

Even with insurance, it would've cost the family $80,000 to save their little girl.

"I feel like we would've been literally living in a box with how much the world took us down and how much families cannot just handle that at all," says Jessica.

Fortunately, the uncompensated care fund at Seattle Children's Hospital covered almost all of that expense.

That generosity prompted Jessica and Layla to start their own charity, Strong Cares Guild, to help other families in the same situation.

"People that pay it forward to others they don't know is an incredible thing to do," says Jessica. "I still can't fathom it. Now, I'm trying to do the same thing. I still don't know how people could give so much."

Layla and her mom have held a garage sale fundraiser in the past and they're holding another one this weekend.

Credit: KING

They'd also like to hold a charity poker tournament and are looking for help to do so.

All money raised will go to pediatric cancer research and uncompensated care at Seattle Children's. Meanwhile, Layla is getting ready to celebrate her 5th birthday next week, cancer free.

Her mom's birthday wish is for families in similar situations to be as fortunate at hers.

"When we got the diagnosis we never thought we'd see five. We have been blessed," Jessica said.

For information about how you can help or donate email: strongcaresguild@gmail.com