A resilient young man from Florida, Michael Cramer, defied the odds and triumphed over a rare and aggressive blood cancer despite facing numerous near-death experiences during his arduous treatment journey. His remarkable story serves as a beacon of inspiration for others grappling with health challenges.
Michael initially sought medical attention due to symptoms such as fatigue, night sweats, and weight loss, attributing them to the stresses of COVID-19 lockdowns. However, a blood test revealed an underlying issue, prompting an urgent visit to a blood specialist. In July 2020, at the age of 21, he received a devastating diagnosis of Hepatosplenic T-cell Lymphoma (HSTCL), a condition with a grim prognosis—most individuals do not survive it, and Michael was given a mere eight months to live.
Undeterred, Michael embarked on a rigorous treatment regimen at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, which included three rounds of intensive chemotherapy. Later that summer, he underwent a bone marrow transplant, a pivotal step in his fight against the aggressive cancer. Unfortunately, this transplant led to a severe complication known as Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD), where the transplanted cells attacked Michael’s own cells.
Over the course of the next 18 months, Michael battled GVHD affecting various parts of his body, including his skin, gastrointestinal tract, and ultimately, his liver. The complications were so severe that his life hung in the balance multiple times. Yet, against all odds, Michael’s resilience and the unwavering support of his mother, Ashlee Cramer, saw him through the darkest moments.
Michael’s triumphant survival is not only a testament to his courage but also an inspiration for others facing health adversities. His journey exemplifies the power of determination, the importance of medical advancements, and the invaluable role of support from loved ones in overcoming life-threatening illnesses.
“The transplant was horrible. I felt so low,” he said when he spoke to SWNS. “It was a long, slow journey of hospital trips, infusions, and so many setbacks.”
“I had my gallbladder removed, which left my stomach paralyzed. Then I got avascular necrosis in both of my knees that could have made me unable to walk.”
At the onset of 2022, Michael’s complexion bore the telltale signs of liver failure, displaying a distinct yellow hue as a result of undergoing numerous intense treatments that left his body grappling with overwhelming stress.
Fast forward to June, and a new ray of hope emerged for Michael at the University of Miami Cancer Institute in the form of a groundbreaking treatment—extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP).
Initially sanctioned by the FDA in 1988, ECP has proven to be a boon for patients grappling with various autoimmune diseases. Michael, who was contending with graft-versus-host disease, T-cell lymphoma, and organ rejection, found solace in this innovative therapy.
ECP’s modus operandi involves the meticulous separation of Michael’s blood, followed by a targeted treatment, and finally, the reintroduction of the treated blood back into his system. This transformative approach has become the linchpin in Michael’s ongoing battle for survival, standing as a testament to the efficacy of the treatment in safeguarding his life.
Ashlee gave up her teaching job in order to provide the care Michael needed. She talked about how his journey as both heart-breaking and amazing: “Our lives changed dramatically but we decided to just take each day—well really each minute—as it comes.”
“He has been so unbelievably strong and I am just so proud of him.”
Having achieved complete remission, Michael is actively recounting his extraordinary journey on TikTok and Instagram. Additionally, he has collaborated with his mother to create a podcast titled Michael and Mom Talk Cancer.
Thanks to Michael’s active presence on social media, he has successfully built an extensive network of support, bringing together cancer survivors from various parts of the globe.
He summarized his whole experience and said, “Ultimately, having thousands of people understand and relate to me got me through it, so I’m so grateful that I have created this kind of space.”
“I wanted to give up so many times but I never did, and that kept me alive.”
In the hospital room, Michael displayed a poster bearing the words, ‘It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that matters,’ serving as a daily source of inspiration for the duo.
Ashlee and her son aspire to motivate others through their content, encouraging people to maintain a positive outlook and understand that life’s challenges are temporary, not permanent.
“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.”