Mom Battling Cancer Manages To Rescue Four Boys Trapped On A Cliff

The definition of heroism.

Lelania Chapman was only seven months removed from her most recent cancer treatment, but she still had enough strength to pull off rescuing four boys stranded at the bottom of a waterfall.

Chapman had taken her son and three kids from her neighborhood hiking in Maple Ridge, Canada, just outside Vancouver. Despite finishing treatment, she had received bad news before the trip: the cancer was back and spreading. 

During one of their stops at a waterfall, 11-year-old Lily Barber — one of the girls from Chapman's neighborhood — said she heard screaming. At first, Chapman couldn't make anything out. But then she thought she heard something. Inching closer to the edge of the waterfall, Chapman saw four teenage boys stuck at the bottom, lips blue from the cold and calling for help.

At first, Chapman tried to call for help, but she had no cell phone signal. When she heard one of the boys say he wanted his mom, the 43-year-old mother knew she had to snap into action.

"I've never been in a situation like that before and you never know what you are going to be like," she told TODAY. "No matter what, you are a lot stronger than you think you are."

Using a rope she had in her backpack, Chapman climbed down into the ravine. There, she found another rope campers had left behind, and she tied it around a tree and her waist before throwing it back to the boys. Then, one by one, she lifted them to safety. 

It was the first time Chapman had left the house in three months, but that didn't seem to slow her down. At 5-foot-3, Chapman — who TODAY reported could hardly lift a watermelon — hoisted one teen who was six feet tall and weighed 160 pounds.

"I don't know how I picked him up by myself," she told TODAY. "I don't really know to this day."

One of the smallest boys in the group wouldn't make the climb, fearful that the rope would break. The boy said that he would jump into the waterfall, but Chapman convinced him he'd be better off grabbing the rope. After 20 minutes, he obliged, and she got him to safety as well. 

During the rescue, the ropes opened up some of Chapman's radiation scars and she was actually bedridden for a week thanks to an infection. Still, she says the experience was a positive one for her during a time when she was feeling depressed.

"I'm beyond thankful. They said 'thank you for saving us.' And I said 'I may have helped you out, but you guys saved me,'" Chapman told the CBC.

View related content from our partners:


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.