At 30 months old, Will Abernathy’s life was filled with so much joy: playing with his friends, swimming and jumping on his trampoline. He was happy being on-the-go and always had a great attitude and a winning smile that warmed any heart and brightened any day. Will was a healthy, happy little boy. That is, until Halloween of 2010, when his life changed forever. At 31 months old, Will was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma. His entire family was in a state of shock and disbelief over his diagnosis, “How could this happen to our perfect little boy?” Will’s journey began with six rounds of chemotherapy at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, plus a tumor resection on his left adrenal gland, a round of outpatient chemo, and numerous ER admissions for fever and blood and platelet transfusions. Will’s response to the first 6 standard rounds of chemo was not what the doctors were hoping for. His scan results showed only a partial response to the chemo with little change. This news was heartbreaking. Desperate to save their boy, Will’s family began a journey around the country to undergo alternative treatments.
Will Abernathy Memorial Fund
Will and his family arrived in Philadelphia to receive a 131I-MIBG therapy, at the time offered at only six hospitals in the nation. Seven weeks after Will’s treatment, his disease showed no change. Armed with a fighting spirit, he endured a second round of treatment. But his cancer remained. His family switched gears and Will began a clinical trial called Crizotinib. After 10 cycles of Crizotinib, and indicating stable disease and clear bone marrow, scans showed a new spot. How could this be? Will was taken off of the drug.
The family’s next stop was Michigan, where Will began a targeted study. After just 2 cycles, scans showed Will’s cancer had spread even more. He was immediately taken off the drug and enrolled in a new chemo treatment. Unfortunately, this treatment brought more side effects and Will developed an infection. His disease didn’t show a great enough response and he was removed from the study. Facing utter desperation, it was back to Philadelphia for a third MIBG therapy. On April 23, 2013, Will was admitted to the hospital to undergo major dental work: 16 extractions and 4 crowns, a result of his cancer treatment. While in the hospital, Will’s blood work revealed devastating news: he had developed a secondary cancer, AML, from previous treatments. Five days later, Will came home for hospice care.
Throughout the years of Will’s treatment, he faced daily challenges that no child should ever have to endure. And in the final months, extreme pain wished upon no living thing. Despite these challenges, Will showed amazing strength and maturity. He adapted to each new normal that came his way. At just five years old, Will’s suffering ended on July 16, 2013.
While Will was a very sick little boy, his family remembers him a different way. Gymnastics and Lil’ All Stars. Playing games on the iPad and dressing up as Buzz Lightyear and Darth Vader. Riding the John Deere tractor full-speed down the hill as his mom chased, trying to slow him down. His loyal companion, boxer Shelby, keeping a watchful eye on Will, somehow understanding his sickness and always tolerating his mischievous acts. His blonde curly locks, bright blue eyes, and affectionate, care-free personality. Will overcame every obstacle that stood in his way and faced every day with the hope and passion to live a happy life, just as we all should.
Purpose of the Fund
The Will Abernathy Memorial Fund was founded in honor of sweet Will Abernathy and his hard-fought battle against neuroblastoma. All money raised by The Will Abernathy Memorial Fund will be dedicated to funding life-saving pediatric cancer research, so no other child loses his or her life to this brutal disease.