If you happened to be out in Trenton or traveling along Highway 11 between Trenton and Rising Fawn Sunday afternoon, you may have seen a long motorcade of emergency vehicles from EMS, Fire, Law Enforcement, and Forestry as well as some from outside the county as they escorted a special Dade County resident home.
Isaac Miller, the eleven-year-old son of Mark and Brittany Miller, was welcomed home after six months in the hospital fighting T-Cell Leukemia. Isaac was first diagnosed with T-Cell Leukemia September 21, 2018. Brittany said Isaac went through chemotherapy and was in remission when in November of 2019 they found Isaac had relapsed. At the time Isaac was being treated at T.C.Thompson’s Children’s Hospital in Chattanooga, but after he relapsed it was decided Isaac should have a bone marrow transplant. In April of 2020, Isaac and his parents packed up and headed to Children at Tri-Star Centennial in Nashville, TN. Brittany said the family was in and out of the hospital before they loaded up to go to Nashville in what ended up being six months of hospitalization in total for Isaac.
A bone marrow match was found for Isaac through bethematch.org and surgery was scheduled for May 5. Brittany said they began calling Cinco de Mayo, Cinco de Marrow. After the transplant, Isaac had to be at the hospital for 60 days, with testing every day. At 60 days, the Millers were able to move to an apartment for another 40 days under very strict guidelines and staying within a certain radius of the hospital as the daily tests continued.
Brittany said one of the more difficult things for Isaac has been sitting around in a hospital and not being able to run and play or get outside much. Isaac had just started his new school when they learned of the relapse in November and he was unable to return to school in person after barely one week, although he has not missed a day of his online classes and stayed at the top of his class through the whole fight. Brittany said the school was really good to work with them.
The Millers made a request for Isaac through Make-A-Wish and there ended up being some setbacks and Make-A-Wish was unable to make their presentation to Isaac Sunday afternoon when he returned home. Make-A-Wish asked Brittany if there was anyone who could help organize a Welcome Home for Isaac and she put them in touch with Kim Stephens. Brittany said she expected maybe a few escort vehicles, but she was very surprised when they rounded the corner to Dade Elementary and saw the parking lot full of emergency vehicles waiting for them. Then the groups of people with signs and lining Highway 11 welcoming Isaac home.
“Kim did an amazing job organizing everybody”, Brittany said and thanked everyone who came out to welcome Isaac home.
Brittany said Isaac was blown away by the welcome home escort and the people lining the road and at one point Isaac said, “We don’t know these people”. Brittany told him his story had been shared through Festival of Life and social media and so many people had been following that and wanted to celebrate his return home with him.
Brittany said Isaac has persevered through everything and describes him as strong-willed. Attributes which helped him in his fight with cancer. Currently, Isaac faces once a week visits to the doctor in Chattanooga with once a month visits to Nashville. He also has some procedures he is facing due to the chemotherapy and things Isaac has gone through during his fight with cancer. One of those procedures will be surgery on his jaw as chemo has destroyed the jaw on the left side of Isaac’s face. Isaac has some guidelines they have to continue to adhere to but is being weaned off his medication, but Isaac returned home cancer-free. By next spring and fall Isaac will be able to play baseball and the 5th grader is looking forward to that.
The Miller family is especially thankful for the bone marrow donor matched with Isaac. Brittany said all they know about the donor is that he is 24 or 25 years old. After a year from the bone marrow transplant, they can meet the donor but have nicknamed the donor Andy after Andy Griffith in the meantime. Brittany said Isaac’s story has inspired a lot of people. One person, in Germany, was researching being a bone marrow donor and came across Isaac’s story with News Channel 3. The person contacted Brittany on Facebook and ended up signing up to be a donor.
“There are not enough people donating bone marrow,” Brittany said. “There are never enough donors.”
Brittany explained that there are people all over the world needing bone marrow transplants and she encourages people to become donors if possible. Information on bone marrow donation and bone marrow transplants can be found at bethematch.org. Brittany said first the person wanting to be a donor is sent swabs to use on their cheek and send into the organization. Once approved as a donor, the donor then waits to be matched with someone needing bone marrow. When a possible match comes up, the donor is contacted and then goes through bloodwork to make sure the donor and recipient match. If they are a match, the donor is given directions on what to do and then proceeds to a hospital to make the marrow donation.
So what does a young cancer survivor do after six months away from home? Brittany said Isaac was already outside mowing the yard, enjoying the activity, and the chance to be outside.
Video of Isaac’s Welcome Home escort and recognition can be seen below.
(Some images in the gallery below from Dade County Sheriff’s Office Facebook site.)