One of the most difficult things that any of us could face is watching a love one who is suffering with cancer. Sometimes, that cancer could last for years and through all of the treatments, we have to watch them getting weaker and weaker. It is something that we never want to face but at times, it faces us.
It is something that is especially devastating when it happens with a child. That was what Abby Furco went through and after being diagnosed with leukemia at only 4 years old, she began her journey through all of the treatments. In fact, as of the time that this little girl was only 10 years old, it became apparent that she only knew life with cancer. The doctors weren’t able to hold out much hope for the family either. In fact, they estimated that she only had a 1 in 5 chance of surviving the cancer that just seemed to get worse. In the midst of it all, however, something happened that truly took all of the family by surprise. It was a moment that will always be etched in their memory. This is their story.
“We were devastated,” Abby’s mom, Patty Furco, said. “We were basically told that she was going to die, there was very little hope.”
Over the next 6 years, they tried their best to give Abby a great life, even though she was going through difficult times. Those problems included radiation and chemotherapy along with a bone marrow transplant. They even tried an experimental, trial drug.
“We kept her surrounded by love because we knew at any moment we could lose her,” Patty said. “There were moments we didn’t know if she’d pull through, she has so many infections that could have ended her life. All we could do was watch her fight and try to get better.”
It was in 2013 that some hope surfaced. For an entire year, she was off of the treatments and was able to live a life like a little girl should. She want to school, took up soccer and even became a girl scout.
That September, the cancer returned and the prognosis was even worse.
“As hard as that first diagnosis was, this one tested every ounce of our being,” Patty recalled. “She became completely immobile, any movement hurt her and she hardly spoke.”
Another bone marrow transplant was given in February 2015 but then another problem surfaced. It was only 15 days later that she was diagnosed with Graft-vs-host disease. Her new bone marrow was attacking her little body.
Kidney failure was not far behind and she ended up on dialysis in the intensive care unit. Her parents were told she would only survive 48 hours if she was not on dialysis.
It was time to say their goodbyes.
“Doctors told us it was time to let her go, she was only awake for like an hour each day,” Patty said. “We began preparing our other daughters for her death.”
Abby was put in hospice and her grandparents flew in for the final visit. They started to plan the funeral.
Then Abby woke up.
“She told us, ‘I have so much living to do,’” Patty recalled.
“We couldn’t believe it,” she added, “in a matter of days, weeks, months she started walking and getting stronger. It’s an absolute miracle.”
Doctors couldn’t do anything but agree. There was nothing that could explain her recovery.
“We helped her get home on hospice. But when we started backing off, taking away treatments so she wasn’t on so many meds, she started getting better all on her own,” said Abby’s doctor, pediatric hematologist and ontologist Jacob Wessler.
“She’s had ups and downs, but if she continues on this path, she is going to make us all look like fools!” he added. “She’s defied every single odd.”
Abby’s cancer is in remission and she receives steroids via IV twice daily. The doctors are still not certain about her prognosis but the family is holding out hope. They are taking life one day at a time and enjoying every moment with their little girl.
“We watched her die and come back to life,” Patty said. “Now we’re looking to the future.”