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Local family has message of hope for other families battling life-threatening illnesses


Brennan has battled cancer for nearly three years, but he's nowhere close to giving up the fight. (WRDW-TV / July 15, 2011)

News 12 This Morning / Friday, July 15 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A local family is celebrating the homecoming of their young son who has been battling a rare form of leukemia for nearly three years and has an important message for other families that may be dealing with a life-threatening illness.

At the Simkins home it's a welcome home worthy of a warrior like 9-year-old Brennan Simkins. At such a young age he already has a long history with a rare disease called Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

"His specific chromosomal abnormality requires a bone marrow transplant for a cure," said Tara Simkins, Brennan's mom.

Brennan started his long battle on the eve of his seventh birthday when he was diagnosed. In Atlanta, he received his first bone marrow transplant. Four months later his parents, Turner and Tara, received another shock: Their son had relapsed.

"Our transplant team didn't have any options for us," Tara said.

The family reached out to their network for more options. What Brennan needed was another transplant.

"It just cannot be done. It is absolutely impossible, and that's what we were told with his second transplant. It is absolutely impossible to have a second transplant before the year anniversary," Tara said.

It was a scary time for Brennan.

"I just kept on feeling if I close my eyes one night, I might not wake up the next morning," he said.

They found doctors at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis who were willing to take on the challenge.

"It was groundbreaking to have a second transplant prior to the year anniversary of the first," Brennan said.

Brennan breezed through the transplant, and after a third and fourth relapse, he had two more transplants. Back home in Augusta, a community banded together for Brennan donning bumper stickers and showing their support.

"There are over 4,000 subscribers to his blog, and then you add in his Facebook page," Turner Simkins said. "The entire world was behind him, there were letters from all around the world."

Brennan had to keep pushing himself to survive.

"Mostly what I said to myself, even though I felt like my heart was slowly beating every second, I kept telling myself just close your eyes and you can push right through," Brennan said.

Now finally back under one roof, the family says they are thankful they never gave up.

"Always ask questions, get a second opinion. Don't assume your doctors know everything that's out there," Tara said.

After nearly three years of fighting, there is still a long road ahead, but Brennan is finally back home and able to do things all 9 year olds want to do.

Approximately 500 children are diagnosed with AML. It's very rare in children and about 70 percent achieve long-term remission with chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation.

Social media played a big role in Brennan's treatment. The family searched for other families through Brennan's Facebook page. They even created the Press on Fund to help raise more awareness, you can visit the website here.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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