Alli is 33 years old and has always been a very health conscious, active person. She runs every day, cooks at home, reads every food label, and has dedicated her life to helping others by entering a career in nursing. Nonetheless, this past October, she became very sick —lethargic, fevers, and even reluctantly told us that she had recently fainted while in the shower. Because of her nursing background, she tried to tough it out, but she wasnt getting any better. Her boyfriend, Tommy, took her to the ER on Oct 10, and little did we know that she wouldn't come out of that hospital that day facing a long and unexpected journey.
I’ll never forget the day Alli gave me the heart crushing news. I was driving to work, and she asked me to pull over and she had something serious to tell me. As the words, "I have cancer" exited her mouth, I had an out of body experience, and immediately pulled over to facetime her, only to realize that she was already sitting in a hospital room. Alli was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) - a life threatening, aggressive form of blood cancer. It begins in the bone marrow and eventually spreads throughout the body. I, along with her family and all our friends, were stunned. It just made no sense. But from the beginning, watching Alli face this challenge head on, with her sassiness and fighter spirit, helped us all stay positive.
Considering Alli is young and otherwise in good health, her chances of full recovery are above average, but treatment is a long, painful, and expensive process. She has already had to undergo countless rounds of intense chemotherapy, and a stem cell (bone marrow) transplant is now scheduled for Feb 20th. Immediately following her transplant and for an undetermined period thereafter, her immune system will likely be 0% of a healthy person. She’s had to remain practically quarantined in the hospital for months with many lifestlye restrictions to prevent infections and other potentially fatal complications.
The fightWhen she was first diagnosed, Alli had 80% blast cells in her bone marrow. I stayed with her in the hospital as she painfully fought through her first round of chemotherapy ... annoyingly asking her to "stay in the present moment" --which I'm sure felt like an impossible task, but each day she impressed me with the strength and determination to dig deep.
Then in December, a second heartbreak. After being in remission for only 2 weeks, she was informed by her oncologist that her cancer had returned. 40% blast cells were flowing in her body, and it meant a quick trip back to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa for still
another round of induction chemo.This time, it was more difficult...no one expected that it would come back so fast, but there she was. This time, the chemo's painful side effects were severe, completely wiping out her immune system, and I watched her fight to get it back. Even though her body was hurting, I watched her take walks to keep her body strong. I was moved to watch this amazing person struggling with and contemplating the “present moment” talk and using her strength to meditate, read, and color to keep her thoughts and mind focused forward.
And when the side effects of chemo set in and she got typhlitis, and I watched as her struggle continued. Her pain and discomfort was still no match for her spirit and undying sense of humor.
It wasn’t the cancer or the chemo, or even the hair loss that truly showed Alli’s strength—- it was the moment she was told she wouldn’t be any viable eggs to freeze for her. We cried for those images of our children one day growing up together. Alli had always seen herself as a mother, and I listened to her talk about how she could be a mother to an adopted child and the beauty and love in that.
If that wasn't enough, I watched everyone around her show up —- whether it was her dad trying on wigs when she was too sick to stand up, her boyfriend trying to come up with a rap song in the hopes it will go viral, her lifelong friend Ryan creating T-shirts to help with fundraising, or my colleague who she never met hosting a bone marrow drive. Everyone was there. Alli showed up for herself and we showed up for her. Every day.
What's Next? The Bone Marrow Transplant
Alli has to undergo another round of chemo this week and next week she will recieve her stem cell transplant. No relatives are matches, but fortunately a “full match donor has been identified from the National Donor Registry. This transplant basically replaces the cells in Alli's bone marrow w
ith the healthy cells from the donor. Because of the long recovery time, the transplant process typically takes around 6 months, including approx. 60 days of 24hr caregiving onces she's released from the hospital. It's an exhaustive procedure, but vital for her to eventually become cancer free.
How can you help?
This all has unfortunately put a signigicant financial strain on Alli. The medical treatment is vital for her to survive, but the expenses are stacking up. Alli has to essentially take a year off from life, unable to work during most of this period. All donated funds will help her pay for medical, pharmaceutical, transportation, caretaking, family planning, and general living expenses during the course of this process. This will allow her to focus on a full recovery. No donation is too small. We will keep you updated as Alli conquers this disease. Thank you to everyone from the bottom of my heart for all of your support!
All funds raised will go to the Trustee of Alli D Brett Supplemental Needs Trust dtd 12-18-17
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