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New YouTube video highlights efforts of LDS community to support 3-year-old battling cancer

Published: Friday, Jan. 25 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

PHOENIX — A 3-year-old girl’s world is filled with reading stories, playing with dolls and taking afternoon naps. Although this is the ideal life for a toddler, Abigail Goss is not your typical 3-year-old girl, and her world is far from normal.

Abigail’s difficult journey began shortly after the Goss family celebrated the new year in 2011. She was sick during the holidays, but because it was flu season, her parents, Aaron and Annabeth, figured it would pass.

A couple of weeks went by, and because of continued lethargy and coughing, Abigail's mother investigated and discovered a lump on her daughter’s neck connected to her collarbone.

After a visit to the emergency room, an X-ray, a CT scan and a series of tests, the doctor informed the Gosses that Abigail had a mass, which eventually was diagnosed as neuroblastoma cancer — a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system.

“Her first month was really touch-and-go, and we didn’t know if we were going to lose her,” Annabeth said. “By the time they diagnose (neuroblastoma) in these kids, they’re already at stage four.”

Because the cancer had spread throughout her entire body, Abigail was at high risk. The disease was in multiple spots in all of her major bones including her hips, skull and femurs.

Because she responded to the first couple of doses to chemotherapy successfully, the Gosses decided to start her on an alternative medicine called Protocel.

The doctors were skeptical of the alternative medicine, but the Gosses wanted to try everything to help Abigail.

“When it’s your own child’s life, you do your own research and whatever you feel is best for your own child, you do,” Annabeth said.

In May of 2011, Abigail had “no evidence of disease.” Although this was great news for her family, the treatments were not over. Abigail was still expected to complete 14 doses of radiation, six rounds of chemotherapy and have surgery on her tumor.

July of 2011 brought frequent trips to New York City and continued visits over the course of many months. There she and her mom visited Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, which has a large neuroblastoma team.

In New York, Abigail received treatment called immunotherapy, which worked to teach her immune system to recognize cancer cells. Annabeth and Abigail would stay in New York for a week’s worth of treatments.

“It’s probably the closest thing to child abuse that I’ve ever done,” Annabeth said. “Basically, they found that when they injected neuroblastoma cancer into a mouse, the mouse would develop an antibody to it, so they used the mouse to develop antibodies, and then they infuse that back into the children’s bodies.”

The cancer patients are drugged with narcotics to help alleviate the pain, however, Abigail’s memory of the treatments proved clear when she was playing “doctor” with her siblings, saying things like, “Do you want me to get you a heat pack for your back? Rub this on your back — it helps the pain go away.”

After 19 months of treatment, Abigail’s body finally developed a resistance to the immunotherapy. “No evidence of disease” and completed treatments made for a happy Goss family. Abigail enjoyed five months of semi-normal living at home, but it wasn’t long before another storm hit.

After four days of immense pain and tears, Abigail relapsed into cancer on Dec. 27, 2012.

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