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Teacher Fighting Rare Form of Cancer

On July 11, doctors at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Systems took another look. What they discovered alarmed them. An extremely rare form of cancer called hepatostlenic gamma delta T-cell lymphoma had invaded Chandler’s body. Nationwide, only 15 or so cases have been diagnosed in the last 10 years and Chandler’s is the first for MCV, says her mother. Her daughter’s spleen was enlarged. So much so, that when doctors removed it, it weighed 5 pounds. By now, the cancer has spread to her liver, bone marrow and gall bladder.

Chandler’s case presents multiple challenges. Because the cancer is so rare, doctors have “no recipe” of chemotherapy to follow and are treating Chandler “very, very aggressively,” her mother says. “The doctors at this point are pulling their hair out trying to stop it,” she says.

What’s more, Chandler desperately needs a bone-marrow transplant. And none of her family is a match. Twenty possible matches from a computer base of available donors have been identified throughout the country. However, Chandler’s insurance won’t cover the cost for the necessary testing required to narrow the search to determine if any one is an exact match. The continued testing costs $2,000 per person.

Friends and colleagues have organized a bone-marrow drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 4 at Chesterfield Towne Center to screen possible donors and help raise money for more tests that they hope will lead to a transplant. A native of Blacksburg, Chandler already has received an outpouring of support from the community there, her mother says.

Now Chandler is undergoing a 21-day, 24-hour, high-dose treatment of chemotherapy. After this, a bone-marrow transplant is critical. “[Doctors] don’t know if it will cure her, but we’re all desperately trying to get her well,” her mother says. “She’s really miserable and she’s really sick.” — Brandon Walters

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