The LLS Man and Woman of the Year competition is held each year in honor of a local boy and girl who have been battling a form of blood cancer. They are a wonderful reminder of the thousands of people around the country who we are raising money for. I want to take some time to introduce you to this year’s Boy and Girl of the Year, Lainey Zuinga and Cooper “The Trooper” Cochran – two wonderful and brave children with fascinating stories.

Lainey Zuniga

Delainey came into this world on July 10, 2007 weighing in at 7 lbs. and 6 oz, with tons of spirit and strength. As it turned out, she would later need that strength as she endured the rigors of fighting a rare blood cancer.

The bad news came on September 29, 2009 when she was admitted to Sutter Memorial Hospital with a fever and blood counts that the doctor called “crazy low.” She was given a preliminary diagnosis of leukemia, and was immediately put on antibiotics and transfused with red blood and platelets to try to bring her counts up. In order to accurately diagnose her condition, doctors performed two bone marrow biopsies. Finally, on October 6th, she was officially diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) with Monosomy 7, a disease which normally occurs in males over the age of 60. The prognosis for Lainey’s disease was only 30 to 60% survival, but her doctor told the family, “Forget these statistics! The only statistic that matters is getting Lainey to 100% recovery!” 

While at Sutter Memorial, the oncology team decided to put Lainey on a regiment of chemotherapy to try to keep the blood cancer from getting worse and possibly turning into Acute Myloid Leukemia (AML). She endured two rounds of chemo and held up pretty well. On December 11, 2009, Lainey received her “Miracle Mommy Marrow,” a bone marrow donation from her mother, Jennifer. 

She was taken off home isolation the following June and allowed to attend preschool starting in January of 2011. Lainey was enrolled in tap and ballet class, and karate too (she now has her orange belt). She loves to dress up and be a princess, but also loves to go outside and dig in the dirt for bugs, snails, and worms. She loves to garden with her Grandma, bake cupcakes with Mom, and create various soups with her Papa. 

Lainey was recently asked what she wanted to be when she grew up and without hesitation she said “a doctor.” Her family is in total agreement that her life was saved so she could grow up make a difference in this world.


Cooper “The Trooper” Cochran

Cooper made an impact on this world the second he was born. Born at 13lbs. 2.8 oz. Cooper was healthy and a very happy calm baby. When Cooper was about 20 months he started to run fevers that were unexplained. No other symptoms. He also started looking a little Jaundice and his stomach a bit swollen. He was eating great, so there wasn’t much concern until his body start bruising just merely from picking him up.

Cooper was diagnosed with High Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on August 30th 2010. He and his mom spent three weeks in the hospital getting his three year treatment plan undersay. The next 14 months came with 146 trips to UC Davis, back and forth for labs, chemo treatments, hospitalizations and radiation.  

Since day one of Cooper’s illness he had a fighting spirit about him. He was too young to know he is sick, too young to act sick and most people who meet him have no idea he has cancer. He runs, plays and laughs just like any normal three year old. He loves YO Gabba Gabba and Dora the Explorer and Cars (Disney/Pixar). You will catch him making animal sounds and using his imagination to the fullest and enjoys spending time with his two older siblings. The thing his family loves most about Cooper is that he is so brave and not afraid. He is empathetic and affectionate, when he is the one that deserves all that love.

We are happy to say at this time Cooper is in clinical remission. He is now on maintenance which requires chemo and steroids to be dispensed orally at home daily and this will continue for the next couple of years. His outlook is good but his family continues to live life one day at a time.