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Young man who was given eight months to live beats aggressive and rare blood cancer after nearly dying multiple times during treatment

A young man given just eight months to live has beaten a rare and aggressive blood cancer - despite nearly dying multiple times during treatment. Michael Cramer, 21, was diagnosed with Hepatosplenic T-cell Lymphoma (HSTCL), a very rare and aggressive type of blood cancer, in July 2020. He booked in for a routine blood test after suffering fatigue, night sweats and weight loss - which he put down to the stress of the COVID-19 lockdowns. But medics feared something was wrong and told him to see a blood specialist immediately. Michael, accompanied by his mother Ashlee Cramer, 53, went from their home in Miami Beach, Florida, USA, to Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami. Doctors there took a bone marrow biopsy and diagnosed either leukaemia or lymphoma. Michael’s dad Patrice Cramer died of large B-cell Lymphoma just four years earlier, so cancer was something the family knew all too well. He was admitted to the hospital where pathologists determined he had HSTCL and broke the terrifying news that most people do not survive it and Michael may have just eight months to live. Michael underwent three rounds of intensive chemotherapy - and twelve sessions of radiation - before he had a life-changing bone marrow transplant in August 2020. The transplant resulted in a severe complication called Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD), where the donor cells attack the host cells. Over the next 18 months, GVHD affected Michael’s skin, his gastrointestinal tract and then his liver - which went into failure and nearly killed him. He said: “The transplant was horrible. It’s one of the hardest treatments you can get. “I had to go on steroids that made me so bloated and it was impossible to sleep. I felt so low. It was a long, slow journey of hospital trips, infusions and so many setbacks. “I had gallstones, so I had my gallbladder removed, which left my stomach paralysed. Then I got avascular necrosis in both of my knees that could have made me unable to walk. “At the start of this year, they really didn’t think I was going to survive. I was yellow from the liver failure and receiving so many different, intense treatments that my body was just overwhelmed.” But this June, Michael started new treatment at the University of Miami Cancer Institute, called extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP). Doctors separated his blood, treated and returned it back to him - which ultimately worked - and is still saving his life today. Mum Ashlee, who gave up her teaching job to care for Michael, described his journey as both heart-breaking and amazing, as she emphasised how proud she is of her son. She said: “Shocked was not even the word at first - I had taught and knew so many children, but never saw anything like this, and now it was my child. “Our lives changed dramatically but we decided to just take each day - well really each minute - as it comes. “Ultimately, we are grateful that he is alive and that the people we interacted with - doctors, nurses - were all positive and wanted him to get better as much as we did. “He has been so unbelievably strong and I am just so proud of him.” He is now officially in remission and is sharing his miraculous journey online through his TikTok, Instagram and a podcast, he runs with his mother, called Michael and Mom Talk Cancer. Michael's social media presence has allowed him to meet other cancer survivors from around the world and create a huge support system. He added: “Ultimately this has all been so lonely. But having thousands of people understand and relate to me has got me through it. “Everything is a struggle for someone and we all just need to be heard and understood, so I’m so grateful that I have created this kind of space.” Michael and Ashlee hope that their content will inspire people to remain positive and remember that life can be hard, but it is never permanent. He said: “On the wall in the hospital I had a poster that said ‘It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that matters' and it inspired me every single day. “I wanted to give up so many times but I never did, and that kept me alive. I was constantly learning and trying to understand which meant I could feel when things were working. “I hope that if anyone is going through anything similar they can be inspired by my journey and get through it - you really can get through anything." Michael is now in full remission.

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