Abby’s story begins on March 27, 2008, the day she was born. After about 12 hours, we received the news that Abigail had Down syndrome. We also found out she has a heart condition that would require surgery and profound hearing loss in her right ear. I start the journey here because children with Down syndrome are at a higher risk for many illnesses and diseases including leukemia.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2011, Abby was getting multiple fevers, which we thought were viruses. After consulting with the pediatrician, we were referred to the Pediatric Oncology unit at Hershey Medical Center. We spend the month of October meeting with the oncologists and doing blood work. Her counts were abnormal, but her cells did not look abnormal. I remember the doctors telling us “if it’s leukemia, it will show itself.” It still appeared that we might be dealing with a virus.
On November 3, we returned to Hershey for blood work follow up, thinking we were out of the woods and expecting to see an increase in the numbers. Late in the afternoon, we received word that her counts dropped significantly, and they were seeing odd looking cells and she would need a bone marrow test the next morning. So, Friday November 4, we spent the day at Hershey Medical Center getting blood work, x-rays, and a bone marrow test. Initial results showed a diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and treatment was set to begin.
After running some more tests, a different diagnosis came back-Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Treatments plans for AML and ALL are very different, so the results were sent to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion and the results confirmed a diagnosis of ALL. The treatment plan for ALL requires mostly outpatient visits, allowing our family to continue to be together during Abby’s treatment. Chemo began on November 11 and would continue for 2 years.
On January 12, 2014, she completed her chemotherapy. She began kindergarten that August.
Abby is now a thriving 9 year old. She is in 3rd grade in a full time learning support class at East High Elementary School. Our cancer journey is never ending and life is never dull but we are forever grateful for the many people who make up our support system. Because we are a family of faith, through all of this, we can still say that God is good.