It started in the summer of 2012 when Emily began having headaches, dizziness, and spells of double vision. I remember receiving a phone call that she was dizzy while relaxing at home. I took off work and rushed home. Being a firefighter and an EMT for 28-plus years, I felt confident in assessing her condition. I asked Emily to walk a straight line in our living room. When she appeared not to be able to perform this simple task, I felt aggravated and scared. I was aggravated that this was happening to her and I could not do anything about it, and I was scared that something serious was wrong. I couldn’t believe this was happening to my precious daughter.
We began setting up appointments with local doctors, trying to diagnose Emily’s symptoms. One Sunday afternoon, we went to the emergency room with Emily experiencing severe headaches, and a doctor told my wife and me that we should begin looking at other resources such as the Children’s Hospital in Atlanta. Within a couple of days, we were en route to Atlanta. Upon arrival at Scottish Rite Hospital, we were immediately surrounded by a team of specialists who worked tirelessly to determine a cause for Emily’s symptoms. Our initial doctor referred to himself as the coach of a football team. He explained that he and his team would work together to determine the cause of the symptoms. After a week in the hospital, we consulted with Emily’s medical team and learned that her symptoms were caused by cancer cells that had begun to form on the layer covering her brain and spinal cord. It was a rare type of malignant brain tumor.
As any father would, I began to ask why. Why does it have to be our Emily? Even so, we were blessed to be in the care of an awesome team of doctors who not only focused on Emily but also cared about her mom and me. Emily’s neuro-oncologist always began our conversations with “How’s Dad doing?” I’m sure my answer was written all over my face, as it would be with any father or mother. The power of prayer was already proving to be successful as family, friends, and co-workers continually asked God for answers and healing. We believe that with the power of prayer, we could accomplish anything that God laid upon us. We continued to pray for our team of doctors to have the knowledge and ability to treat Emily’s condition. And we continued to pray for Emily to have relief from the pain she experienced throughout the whole ordeal.
Emily’s neuro-oncologist formulated a 12-month chemotherapy plan that involved weekly trips to Atlanta. Her first ten weeks of chemo were uneventful, but shortly thereafter, she began to develop several side effects from the medicines. Being the survivor that she is, Emily never gave in and continued to fight to overcome all the obstacles before her. Due to unexpected allergic reactions to the first round of chemo medicine, her 12-month plan was extended another 6 months. During her 18-month battle with cancer, Emily yearned for a life of routine and normalcy. She attended school as much as she could endure and even remained on the honor roll at her school.Once we had completed this phase of chemotherapy treatments, we met with Emily’s team again to discuss her long-term plan of care. Her schedule would consist of traveling to Atlanta once a quarter to have an MRI of her brain and spine to make sure nothing had reoccurred or continued to spread. Since her last chemo treatment in January 2014, we have been traveling to Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital every 3 months for an MRI to monitor her cancer status. In mid-2016, we learned that Emily was doing so well that her team of doctors recommended moving her MRIs to every 6 months.
And then Emily’s last scan in December 2016 revealed a small area of concern. Her conservative neuro-oncologist stated that before moving Emily to the 6-month scan plan, she wanted one more scan in 3 months to make certain that the small area had not changed. As one could imagine, we were apprehensive and concerned about that area. As March 2017 approached and we prepared for another MRI, we were anxious as to what might be revealed. After the MRI, our neuro-oncologist called and delivered the second round of devastating news to my wife and me: the cancer had returned.
We were asked to return to Atlanta with Emily to meet with her doctor and discuss another plan of care to fight this dreaded disease one more time. Her plan will consist of another 52 weeks of infusion treatments at Scottish Rite Aflac Cancer Center in Atlanta. People continue to ask if she can get these treatments locally or closer to home, but our response is that this staff and team of doctors have been there for Emily since she was seven years old. And our Emily has proven not to let this disease beat her down or hold her back. We have been blessed with family, friends, and support from organizations such as Jay’s HOPE to get us over the hurdles that life throws our way. A trip to Atlanta every week for the next year is a small sacrifice when we believe that God is in control.
Now at age 12, Emily has proven time and time again to be a true warrior. Her strength and resilience through her journey have allowed her to overcome many challenges and obstacles. The word BELIEVE is strong and powerful for our family. Emily has always demonstrated a strong belief in the power of prayer and faith. She has the biggest heart and is always thinking of others. Her smiles and positive attitude surpass any trials that come her way. She is truly a brave and courageous survivor, and during her toughest times she has done everything that was asked of her, never looked back, and always focused on beating cancer with a beautiful smile on her face.
We BELIEVE in the power of God!
We BELIEVE in Hope!
We BELIEVE in a complete Healing!
We would like to thank all of our family and friends for their commitment that has given us more support than we could ever imagine. We are overwhelmed by the love and the enormous amounts of prayers we have received throughout this journey with our daughter. We are forever grateful for our prayer warriors who continue to lift Emily up in prayer!
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