Our LifeList program is inspired by our friend Abby Fessler.
In March 2012, on my way home from work, I went into urgent care because I’d been battling what I was afraid was walking pneumonia. The doctor found 8-9 lumps on my head. Urgent care took an EKG and chest x-ray. From there they sent me straight to the emergency room.
I was admitted upon arriving to the hospital where I met with my first oncologist. The oncologist ordered blood tests and waited with us until 11pm when he could get the preliminary results. The results indicated I had T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
The pressure in my chest I was experiencing was from a 10 cm tumor that was occluding 90% of my superior vena cava. If I wouldn’t have gone into urgent care when I did, I probably would have died at home in the next few days. We started on a clinical trial of intense chemo that made me so incredibly violently ill. I also had a procedure to put an Omaya reservoir in my head, only to find out once it was placed that it was dysfunctional and needed to be replaced. After a year of hell, almost dying in the ICU, and losing my job, on Christmas 2012, I FINALLY got the news of that I was in remission. For several months after receiving this news, we continued with maintenance chemo and radiation to my brain.
In August 2013, I started experiencing extreme pain in my back. I went to chiropractors, massages, etc. to relieve the pain but nothing was helping. My boyfriend picked me up from the floor one night, as I was curled up crying hysterically out of pain, and he drove me to the closest ER. The doctors did a bunch of tests and admitted me once again. I met with the entire oncology team the next day and they explained to me that they didn’t think they could help me.
I was then transferred to Presbyterian St. Luke’s in Denver by ambulance to meet a team that promised to try their best to save my life. My leukemia had come back with a vengeance. This time attacking my nervous system. The MRIs of my spine showed that it was loaded with cancer. My amazing oncologist, and friend, Dr. Muffly, proposed a plan of attack.
Dr. Muffly’s plan included more intense chemo and radiation to prepare my body for a stem cell transplant. This was hard on me and I almost lost the battle a few times, but I managed to pull through. We tested my sister to see if she would be able to be a match and donate her stem cells, but she was not a close enough match. However, I was incredibly lucky enough to have an unknown donor come through for me. I had a remarkably quick recovery and was only hospitalized once following transplant for 1 weekend.
After having an amazing summer 2014, I started experiencing severe pain in my left shoulder/back/arm. After several months of trying to ignore it and treat it with alternative therapies again, I knew I had to do something else, as it was interfering with my lifestyle. Several MRIs later, it was confirmed that my cancer was once again attacking my central nervous system.
Abby earned her angel wings on October 3rd, 2015, nearly a year after she wrote her story. Even in the end, she was the image of grace and strength.