Last year, Patty and Joe Furco were living every parent’s worst nightmare when they were told by doctors to start planning their 10-year-old daughter’s funeral.
Since the age of 4, the couple’s daughter, Abby, has been battling Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, an extremely rare form of cancer.
For years, Abby underwent chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and even a trial drug just to stay alive, though doctors always thought she would eventually succumb to the cancer.
“We kept her surrounded by love because we knew at any moment we could lose her,” said Patty, according to PEOPLE. “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,” she added.
Then, suddenly, Abby was finally in remission. For one “beautiful” year, she was able to live life like a normal kid.
Sadly, the cancer returned in September 2014, and doctors essentially told the Furcos that their daughter would not survive.
“As hard as that first diagnosis was, this one tested every ounce of our being,” Patty said. “She became completely immobile, any movement hurt her and she hardly spoke.”
Although Abby received her second bone marrow transplant in February 2015, she was diagnosed with Graft-versus-host disease, a condition where donated marrow attacks the body, just 15 days later.
By May 2016, Abby’s kidneys had started failing and she was soon placed into intensive care.
At that point, doctors told the Furcos that Abby would die in just 48 hours if she was taken off of dialysis.
“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.”
In June 2016, Abby was flown to her family’s home in Virginia from the hospital in Chicago, so she could receive hospice care.
Even her grandparents flew in to say goodbye to Abby.
While Abby spent most of her days asleep, her parents began planning her funeral, picking out caskets and music for her service.
Then, suddenly, Abby woke up—and she’s still here today.
“We couldn’t believe it, in a matter of days, weeks, months she started walking and getting stronger,” Patty said. “It’s an absolute miracle.”
Even Abby’s doctor, pediatric hematologist and oncologist Jacob Wessler, said there is no explanation for her sudden recovery.
“She was very, very sick and her body was shutting down slowly and her organs weren’t working correctly anymore and every intervention was just making her worse,” Dr. Wessler told PEOPLE. “We told Patty and Joe there was nothing else we could do, the only foreseeable outcome was that Abby was going to die.”
“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,” he added.
Although Abby’s future remains unknown, the fact that she is still alive nearly a year after going on hospice care is remarkable in itself.
“She’s had ups and downs, but if she continues on this path, she is going to make us all look like fools!” Dr. Wessler said. “She’s defied every single odd.”
The Furcos say Abby is now in remission, but she still takes IV steroids twice a day.
“She just wants to be a normal kid and hang out with friends and go to school — her zest for life is just amazing,” Patty said. “We watched her die and come back to life.”
“Now we’re looking to the future,” she added.