For most of 10-year-old Abby Furco’s life, she has only known one thing: cancer.
The sweet 5th grader was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011 when she was only 4 years old. At the time, doctors only gave her a 20 percent chance of survival.
“We were devastated,” Abby’s mom, Patty Furco, said. “We were basically told that she was going to die, there was very little hope.”
For the next six years, the family did everything they could to help Abby and give her the best life they could. She underwent a bone marrow transplant, intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and a 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.”
In October 2013 came a ray of hope. Abby had finished her treatments and for one “beautiful” year was able to be a normal kid again. She attended school, went to soccer practice, and joined the Girl Scouts.
Then, the following September, the cancer returned, and this time it was worse than ever.
“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.”
She received another bone marrow transplant in February 2015, but just 15 days later she was diagnosed with Graft-versus-host disease, a condition where the donated marrow begins to attack the body.
The next month her kidneys began to fail. She was put into intensive care and doctors told her parents that if they took her off dialysis she would only survive 48 hours.
It was time to say goodbye.
“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.”
They put Abby in hospice care and her grandparents flew in to say their final goodbyes. Then they began the heartbreaking task of planning her funeral, picking out her casket and the music they would play.
Then a miracle occurred – 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 agree – there is absolutely nothing medically that can explain Abby’s 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 oncologist 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 is now in remission and receives IV steroids twice a day. Her prognosis remains uncertain, but her family is hopeful. They are taking each day as it comes and enjoying every precious moment they get with Abby.
“We watched her die and come back to life,” Patty said. “Now we’re looking to the future.”
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