Eight-year-old Connor was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just 1.5-years-old. He underwent chemo for 3 years and 3 months and celebrated his last dose with a family party. For the next couple of years Connor endured several finger pokes for routine blood tests. Sadly, his family learned in February 2017 that his leukemia came back.
Connor’s mom, Jen, shared, “He didn’t even feel sick but the doctors said he had to fight the bad guys in his blood and start taking chemo again. This second time the chemo was a lot harder- it made him really sick and he had to stay in the hospital a lot.”
Connor had a bone marrow transplant on August 1, 2017, from his sister Chloe. His health continued to improve but he couldn’t be around people or go to public places because of germs. He spent most of his time at home and was homeschooled to stay on track with his school work. Connor was able to FaceTime with his class.
One year after his bone marrow transplant, a biopsy revealed that his leukemia was back for a third time. He spent over a month at Children’s Hospital Colorado getting chemo in preparation for CAR T-cell immunotherapy.
CAR-T personalized cellular therapy is a revolutionary approach to treating cancer by using genetic engineering to reprogram the patient’s own immune T cells to find and kill cancer cells. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For the past two decades, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has invested more than $40 million in CAR-T research and development. Connor was the sixth person at Children’s Hospital Colorado to receive CAR-T.
Connor had a check-up 34 days after his CAR-T infusion and again most recently during the holiday season at 61 days post-treatment. The results were positive, showing no signs of leukemia. Jen shared, “This was the BEST Christmas present ever for our family!!! His fight isn’t over but this is a huge victory and we are soooo very thankful!”
You can click here to learn more about CAR T-cell immunotherapy.
Connor has been an inspiration to Denver-area teammates training for the Wildflower Experience and other endurance events through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training, the world’s largest and most successful endurance sports fundraising and training program. Team In Training (TNT) offers a lineup of innovative high caliber domestic and international events, and prepares teammates for marathons, half marathons, and triathlons, as well as cycling, climbing and hiking experiences.
Since its inception in 1988, Team In Training has raised more than $1.5 billion, trained more than 650,000 people and helped LLS invest more than $1.2 billion in blood cancer research such as CAR T-cell immunotherapy.
“We all come to TNT with different our own personal stories and reasons for being involved with LLS,” shared Heather Collins, Team Captain for Team In Training Fundraising Team Connor McStrong. “Coming together to support our Honored Hero is what makes us a team. You realize that what you are a part of is bigger than just you, and your goals and your training. Watching Connor and his family go through the different stages of his treatment really brings the LLS mission to life and continually inspires me to keep doing this kind of work.”
Training for the Wildflower Experience begins on February 2, 2019. Team In Training will get you to the finish line with experienced coaches, training resources and a supportive community of athletes of all skill levels. Teammates also have access to world-class fundraising tools to help them reach their goal to fund blood cancer research.
“Before I joined Team in Training, all of my training was ‘solo’,” shared Heather. “I was hesitant about running with a team. Now I can’t imagine anything else! The encouragement and support from day one of training through event weekend helps me stay motivated. Instead of going into the event weekend nervous and uncertain, I now know I’ll have TNT Staff, coaches, supporters and teammates there to help me through. I find as much joy in cheering on my teammates as I do crossing that finish line myself!”
Join the team for the Wildflower Experience. To learn more, click here. Use code 303TRI for free Team In Training registration ($100 value, expires 1/31/19).