One tough little girl
5-year-old Emily underwent a total of 16 months of chemotherapy and 12 weeks of radiation therapy after being treated for cancer twice.
Emily loved the camera, and it loved her. The baby of her family and the only girl, she didn't shy away from being the center of attention. Instead, she took full advantage of the opportunity to shine.
And while this little girl had plenty of grins, she also had grit. At 5 years old, she was in the midst of her second cancer battle.
Not long after turning 2, Emily woke up one day with half her face paralyzed. The doctor sent her to a neurologist, who suspected Bell’s palsy, a condition in which the muscles on one side of a face can become weak or paralyzed.
But instead of resolving, as Bell’s palsy would have, things got worse. When she stopped eating, drinking and playing, her parents rushed her to the emergency room. A scan showed she had a brain tumor — medulloblastoma — and the cancer had already spread to her spine.
The news was, obviously, a shock. And it was terrifying.
“One of my best friends lost her daughter to neuroblastoma,” said Emily’s mom, Christy, at the time. “She was the only other person I knew that had dealt with childhood cancer.”
Following surgery to remove as much tumor as possible at a hospital near their home, Emily was flown to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It was where her family wanted her to be.
“St. Jude, they’re well-known. They have a great reputation,” said Christy. “We did research on her diagnosis, and we saw that they had a protocol here, so we felt that was best for her.”
St. Jude has led important research into the genomic changes that lead to these tumors, discoveries that may help in developing precision medicines to treat medulloblastoma.
Emily received treatment including chemotherapy and physical and occupational therapies to regain her strength. Soon, said Christy, she was like a different kid — like the old Emily, worlds better than the one who had arrived at St. Jude too weak to even sit up.
She went home cancer free, and for 18 months, she stayed cancer free.
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Then, the medulloblastoma came back. Emily returned to St. Jude.
“Emily is a tough little girl,” said her mom at the time. “She always manages to keep a smile on her face, even through the tough days.”
Kids like Emily are why St. Jude will never give up.
Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since it opened more than 50 years ago.
Emily loved playing outside and was very much looking forward to going back home and being reunited with her dad, her brothers and her kitties.
Said Christy at the time, “We are all looking forward to the day she is cancer free again!”
Editor's Note: We regret to inform you that Emily passed away in April 2020.
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