A Christmas CAR T Miracle
One of the best and worst parts of having cancer is the relationships with others who have the same disease. The highs of making lifelong friendships are sometimes trumped by feelings of helplessness while watching the suffering of those we have come to love. I find myself praying harder for my friends than for myself. Scott Christiansen is one such friend.
My friend, @myeloma.and.me
I don’t remember when I began following myeloma.and.me on Instagram. I do know it was before I realized that he was also a contributor here on Blood-Cancer.com. Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2017, Scott has posted about his long and arduous battle with high-risk multiple myeloma since 2018.
Through winces and clenched teeth, his friends and followers have seen him through radiation, surgeries, and over 140 chemo infusions. We have offered our love and support as he struggled with collapsed vertebrae, peripheral neuropathy, aggressive metastases, harsh reactions to infusions, nosebleeds, fevers, blood clots, a failed stem cell transplant, edema, and diastolic heart failure. We knew he needed a miracle if he was going to see Christmas.
Hope never dies
In late September 2020, in a last-ditch rally against the myeloma, Scott was approved for a phase 1 CAR T-cell therapy clinical study at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Fevers, blood clots, renal failure, a growing facial tumor, and rising light chains threatened to keep him from even making it to Boston.
Then he was hospitalized a week early when the preparatory PET scan revealed the cancer had spread to his liver, kidneys, and spleen. Cascading organ failure had begun, and he had officially run out of time. He was given 4 days to live. But on November 3, Scott became the 3rd human ever to be injected with this particular type of CAR T cells.
I joined a growing number of followers who waited with bated breath to hear any news. Weeks went by without an update. But on December 6th, we read the following post:
So what words could possible begin to describe what the last 6 weeks have brought me.....horrors beyond comprehension that I can only hope that one day I may begin to unravel them....I survived....but death chased me everyday....10....12 major crises..hitting together or in sequence....but...I survived. So let me cut to the chase......The phase 1 clinical study utilizing a revolutionary new cart-t procedure and compound was a complete success....As of Friday they were almost unable to detect ANY cancer in my body....by Thursday they fully expect to declare me as having achieved NED ...no evidence of disease....full and complete remission.
Cancer didn’t win today!
Scott’s incredible story not only gives blood cancer patients the hope of CAR T trials but also faith in the power of love and the indomitable human spirit. From the beginning, he has kept a promise to his wife that he would never give up. And despite having so many reasons to throw in the towel along the way, he didn't. He continually found a way to fight harder, to love more, and to ‘squeeze every ounce out of the possible.’ Through the toughest of times, he has kept his focus on the love of his amazing family, the beauty of nature, and the joy present in each moment. He has used memories of the best times of his life to buoy his spirits and maintain his infectious sense of humor.
Through his encouraging and poetic words in his posts, Scott has shown his followers how to keep believing in the seemingly impossible, laugh in the face of fear, and enjoy the lives we have now. In true Instagram style, he closes many of his posts with hashtags such as #NeverGiveUp, #DefineYourPossibleAndLiveIt, and #HopeNeverDies. His favorite hashtag, though, is #CancerDidn'tWinToday. And today, cancer didn't. And when we keep living on our own terms and believing in limitless possibilities, it never will.
Scott's particular clinical trial is still open, so perhaps other myeloma patients can receive their Christmas miracles too.
Have you met another blood cancer patient?