HANCOCK COUNTY — It wasn’t the kind of news his parents were praying for, but Brody Stephens isn’t done fighting yet.
It’s been a long battle against leukemia for the Sugar Creek Elementary student, whose supporters had hoped the best Christmas gift they might receive this holiday season was word Brody was finally cancer-free.
Brody, 7, of New Palestine, went to Riley Hospital for Children in August to undergo a bone marrow transplant — his best chance of survival, doctors said.
He’s been in the hospital ever since, and doctors said a recent bone marrow biopsy showed too much evidence of the disease remaining to consider him in remission.
Brody went into the transplant in August with .25 percent leukemia cells ravaging his body. In order to consider the boy free of cancer, that number must be lowered to .01 percent. Brody’s level remains at .02 percent.
Doctors met with Jason and Celia Stephens, Brody’s parents, last week, to discuss the biopsy results. The Stephenses shared the news on social media with their supporters, who call themselves the Brody Brigade.
“You can imagine the sadness and tears in the room,” Brody’s father wrote. “Brody has fought so, so hard. … This news is a true setback.”
And yet, the family is already discussing the options and maintaining a positive outlook. Brody’s doctors have called the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to see if Brody can be accepted into a treatment program there; the treatment focuses on the infusion of healthy cells into a patient’s body in an effort to boost the immune system.
This marks the second time Brody has battled leukemia, and this form of the disease has challenged his doctors, the family said.
There’s no protocol to follow, the doctors told Brody’s family.
The youngster first battled and beat acute myeloid leukemia when he was just 18 months old. AML is primarily a cancer of the bone marrow and lymph nodes.
Brody was diagnosed a second time in December 2015, just one month before his five-year remission anniversary. The family learned he had B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of leukemia in children, characterized by the presence of too many immature white blood cells in the patient’s blood and bone marrow.
While the past few weeks have been difficult, Brody’s parents and their army of supports are encouraging one another, sharing messages of hope and prayers.
They know Brody is different, stronger and maybe even a little more stubborn than most kids, they say.
They are asking community members to continue to keep Brody, his family, his friends at Riley Hospital, the doctors, nurses and care staff in its prayers.
“We choose to believe and have faith that Brody will beat this horrible disease,” Jason Stephens wrote.