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Nurturing a Passion

A 15-year cancer survivor, Leslie Jared has dedicated more than twice that time to helping other cancer patients. Helping to build the My DIPG Navigator program, and serving as the program director, Leslie’s unique perspective has positioned her as an invaluable ally for families facing DIPG. Working hard to overcome barriers that accompany a brain cancer diagnosis, Leslie has empowered families and patients to pursue the best treatment possible while confronting the disease. Her tireless efforts have helped ease the cancer battle for so many families, and as she embarks on her own retirement journey, we want to thank her for her incredible work.

Growing up in Charlestown, Indiana, Leslie worked for a local pharmacy throughout high school. It was during those years that her interest in the medical field took root and continued to grow. Accompanied by an ever-growing desire to make a difference in the lives of others, she chose to pursue nursing at Purdue University, achieving her BSN, and later went on to earn her MSN at Vanderbilt University.

Fighting for Kids

After 9 years as an ICU nurse, Leslie focused the next 3 decades of her career on clinical work, coordinating, monitoring, and managing clinical trials for cancer research. She later took on roles at various contract research organizations where she began working on oncology clinical trials.

Leslie then took on a role as a nurse navigator for Cancer Commons, where she gained experience working primarily with brain cancer patients, many of whom had been diagnosed with DIPG. By working with physicians and gathering necessary medical records, Leslie helped patients overcome obstacles in order to qualify for ONC201 through the expanded access program.

During this time, Leslie learned just how difficult it could be to work so closely with families facing a terminal diagnosis, but believes she was called to do the work.

“While it can be hard emotionally, there is some peace in knowing that I’m helping support, educate, and guide a family through the horrible process of making sure their child gets the best care possible,” said Leslie.

“Towards the twilight of my career, I wanted to leave the business aspect of nursing and get back to patient care,” said Leslie. “It was then that I was fortunate to go to work for Cancer Commons, where I did extensive work with DIPG and pancreatic cancer patients.”

My DIPG Navigator

In 2019, Leslie met a young college student named Jace Ward who was diagnosed with DIPG 9 months before his 21st birthday. His doctors told him he would likely pass away before then. But, as Jace’s nurse navigator, Leslie helped him gain access to ONC201 and worked alongside his family to seek the best treatment possible. He lived for 2 years post-diagnosis.

“If it weren’t for Leslie, Jace would not have had the time he did,” said Lisa Ward, Jace’s mom.

Jace believed that all families fighting DIPG deserved the same access to navigation support. Inspired by his vision, the ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation created the My DIPG Navigator program in 2022, hiring Leslie as the program director. Along with a group of doctors and fellow foundations, Leslie helped build the program, designed to give much needed, free guidance for patients and their families facing a DMG/DIPG diagnosis. 

“I believe my most significant contribution to the nursing field has been being able to help in the development of the My DIPG Navigator program,” said Leslie. “In a little over a year and a half, we have been able to help approximately 250 DIPG/DMG patients and families. It is an honor to know that I have made an impact in the lives of these families, and they have made a huge impact on my life as well.”

Leaving Behind a Legacy

As 2023 comes to a close, Leslie is looking forward to starting the next chapter of her life as she transitions into retirement. She and her husband of 46 years, Jerry, plan to travel often and spend more time with their two children and four grandchildren. She’s excited to get more involved with her church and explore new hobbies, like knitting and tile making.

Leslie’s career is a testament to the enduring influence one person can have in the lives of those touched by cancer. As Leslie enters retirement, she hopes the families she has served will remember her as someone who listened to them, cared deeply, and offered a bit of hope.

ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation is forever grateful to Leslie for her help in establishing our My DIPG Navigator program. A family diagnosed with DIPG or DMG today now has a compassionate, knowledgeable resource available who can help them understand the world they’ve been thrown into, connect them with the resources they need, and support them along the way. My DIPG Navigator would not be what it is had it not been for Leslie’s involvement in its development.