Ashley Cain and ex Safiyya plan heartbreaking tribute to mark 1 year since Azaylia’s death

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Azaylia underwent two rounds of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, and had to fly to Singapore for specialist treatment before it became clear the cancer was too advanced. She died in her parents’ arms at their home in Coventry.

Ashley Cain and Safiyya Vorajee will mark the first anniversary of the death of their baby daughter Azaylia

Tomorrow, former footballer Ashley Cain and Safiyya Vorajee are set to watch their daughter Azaylia take wobbly steps and play with her favorite toy. Instead, they will spend the day at his grave, marking the first anniversary of his death.

“While we usually try to celebrate his life, this day will be sad,” said Safiyya, 34. “We are going to make this day as special and as beautiful as possible. We will release three doves to represent Mom, Dad and Azaylia and gather the family at their resting place, shed a few tears and say our prayers.

Although the couple announced the end of their relationship just a few weeks ago, they are closer than ever when it comes to their daughter and the foundation they have created in her memory.

Ashley, 31, will mark the anniversary with a 100-mile run from her daughter’s grave to Trafalgar Square, where she will take a moment to sit at the feet of giant stone lions and remember her ‘likkle lion’ – his pet name for his baby girl, who died at the age of eight months due to acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive form of leukaemia.







Azaylia lost her life at eight months of acute myeloid leukemia
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Picture:

Ashley Cain/Instagram)








Ashley and Safiyya shared their daughter’s illness on social media
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Picture:

Handout)


Azaylia underwent two rounds of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, and had to fly to Singapore for specialist treatment before it became clear the cancer was too advanced. She died in her parents’ arms at their home in Coventry.

“These eight months, while difficult and heartbreaking, have been the best eight months of our lives,” Ashley says.

“We can look back and know that we gave absolutely everything. I would give the rest of my life just to have those eight months again.

While treating her, Ashley and Safiyya shared their daughter’s illness on social media, posting daily about their hospital stay.

Due to Covid restrictions, they were often alone with her on the ward, teaming up for their visits so she was never alone.

While some might question this public sharing of every parent’s worst nightmare, the couple have no regrets. “I believe most of the time with social media you showcase the best part of your life, the things you’re proud of, the things you love, the things you consider amazing, for the whole world. And he there was nothing more amazing than Azaylia,” says Ashley.







Unfortunately, Azaylia became too ill for further treatment.
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Picture:

Ashley Cain/Instagram)







Ashley will mark the anniversary with a 100-mile run to her daughter’s grave in Trafalgar Square

Their constant refrain “Allons champ!” urging their baby girl through her latest treatment or celebrating her baby’s milestones like smiling, sitting up or eating solid food for the first time, was picked up around the world by their followers who offered a wave of love and support.

But it didn’t stop there. When Azaylia desperately needed a bone marrow donor, Ashley and Safiyya launched an appeal that saw 41,000 people register as stem cell donors in just 48 hours. They also managed to raise over £1.5m for specialist treatment in Singapore.

Unfortunately, Azaylia became too ill for further treatment. So Ashley and Safiyya used the funds to create the Azaylia Foundation (theazayliafoundation.com), dedicated to raising awareness and improving treatments for childhood cancer.

The foundation, set up last September, has already helped several children raise money for treatments not available on the NHS, as well as buying equipment for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and donating funds to the city ​​university for a cell sorting machine.

“Azaylia has created a huge awareness,” says Safiyya. “But if we don’t keep talking about it, it stays in the dark. That is why we will continue to fight for these children.

“Our goal is to revolutionize childhood cancer,” says Ashley. “The goal is to advance early diagnosis and available treatments. We also seek to educate GPs who are not trained to diagnose childhood cancer early enough. And we want to develop specific treatments for children. Often they are given adapted versions of adult treatments, which can leave very traumatic effects on the child’s body.

In addition to creating a legacy for their daughter, Ashley and Safiyya’s public openness around their loss and grief has paved the way for others to express theirs.

“I’ve had so many men come up to me on the street or in a store just to hug me and cry,” Ashley says. “The other week a guy stopped me and said, ‘My daughter has just come into Birmingham Children’s Hospital with leukaemia. I want to thank you for allowing the men and fathers to show their emotions and not be afraid to do so.”

While Ashley carries her grief openly, he acknowledges that it’s still hard for men to open up. “I want people to realize there’s nothing wrong with not being OK, as long as you’re willing to acknowledge it and do something about it,” Ashley says. “That’s why it’s so important that I not only show the good days, but also the bad days. The first way to recover is to recognize it, then you can start to manage it and overcome the pain.

Although she only spent eight months in the world, it is clear that Azaylia changed her parents’ lives forever.

“Azaylia made me become a woman as soon as I had her,” says Safiyya.

“I feel like I’ve evolved so much. I have time, patience and empathy for so much more in life than before.

“She showed me what I was capable of and how to appreciate
the things that matter,” Ashley says. “Now she’s not here with us, she’s
the driving force for me to be the
best person I can for me and for her.

“Being in this fight with Azaylia made us realize how strong these kids fighting cancer are. Now I want to fight for her legacy and make her proud of me.

  • Loving and Losing You, Azaylia: My Inspirational Daughter and our Unbreakable Bond by Safiyya Vorajee (£20, Ebury) out April 28

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