After more than 200 days of fighting, 3-year-old Cj Moreno is cancer-free.
“The feeling was indescribable; it was like he was being born all over again — a second chance at life. We were so shocked, and we were just hugging him and crying,” said Cj’s father, Carlos Moreno.
In November, St. Jude Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, diagnosed Cj, of Whiting, with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, which is a rare blood disease. The subtype of this AML is M7, which is the rarest form of AML.
In March, Cj underwent a bone marrow transplant. Sadly when they tested Cj in April he still had cancer in his bone marrow. Although the amount of cancer was lower than what he had going into the transplant, the news was devastating.
In a blog, Tabitha Gilliam, Cj’s mother wrote, “Some days you can and some days you just can’t. Today was one of those days where we desperately just wanted to fall on our knees and cry.”
Gilliam also wrote, “We processed the information that was given to us, took some deep breaths and moved on. Now we’re back in fight mode, although I’m not sure we ever really left fight mode.”
The only options the family had were to either get more cells from the donor or take Cj off medication that was preventing him from getting graft vs. host sisease.
Graft vs. host disease is when the donor's immune cells mistakenly attack the patient's normal cells.
“Our donor wasn’t available until August, so our only option from there was to take Cj off immunosuppressant medication. It was so scary taking him off of that because graft vs. host disease is just as deadly as cancer,” Carlos Moreno said.
But when doctors rechecked Cj, the cancer was gone.
“It was pretty much a Hail Mary pass,” Carlos said.
Cj also was tested Wednesday and his results came back cancer-free again the following day.
The plan is for Cj to stay at St. Jude for another six months and give him six more rounds of maintenance chemotherapy. Carlos said that plan may change depending on upcoming test results, treatment and Cj's tolerance level. Cj will be retested every 30 days for two years. The highest risk of relapse is in that timeframe, he said.
“We’re in the best possible situation we can be in given the circumstances, but we’re going to take it month by month," Carlos said. "He’s been away from his family longer than we thought, but when we get home we want to be home for good.”