Carson Leslie was a kind, popular, lively teen who loved sports and spending time with his family and friends. He was a devoted student at The Covenant School of Dallas, where he was quarterback on the school’s football team, and he was an active member of Grace Bible Church. He shared a special bond with his older brother Craig, and the two were inseparable. He was “an indomitable spirit, [even] as a little boy,” and “the kid everyone wanted to spend the night with on Fridays,” reminisced his mother, Annette Leslie.
When Carson was 14, he experienced symptoms that initially perplexed his physicians, but ultimately led to a diagnosis of medulloblastoma. He underwent grueling treatments for 3 years until he and his family were told there was nothing further that could be done. He died at the age of 17 in early 2010.
Throughout his years of treatment, Carson kept a journal. These writings eventually became a book, Carry Me, which was published 6 days before his death. The book provides a glimpse of what it is like to fight a life-threatening disease as a teen. Carson wrote, “I have written a book to give a voice to the teenagers and children who have cancer but are unable to express how such an illness affects their personal, social, physical, and emotional life…. I wish to make a difference, and I know others my age want to do the same.”
“Carson was a giver at heart,” reflected Ms. Leslie. When it became clear that he would not survive his disease, he told his parents, “…Make sure they study those tumors in my brain, because if those tumors can help some kid someday not die from cancer like I am, I’d like that; it’s hard to have cancer.” His family honored his request, donating tumor samples that were used for mouse models. This was only the beginning of the contributions from Carson and his family.
In 2010, the Leslie family launched the Carson Leslie Foundation as the only nonprofit organization in the United States whose main focus is finding a cure for medulloblastoma. “Medulloblastoma is the most prevalent of children’s brain cancers, and brain cancer is the deadliest of children’s cancers,” said Ms. Leslie.
Through a collaboration with the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the Foundation supported the Carson Leslie Awards for Pediatric Brain Cancers, which translated to a total of $3.2 million for research programs at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Baylor College of Medicine, and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The foundation has also established a #cureMEdullo initiative to further propel its research support. One of the first efforts as part of this initiative is supporting a Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO/#cureMEdullo powered by the Carson Leslie Foundation Young Investigator Award in Medulloblastoma Research.