Emma is a fighter and a survivor

Emma---630px-headerAn illness requiring a trip to the Emergency Room is scary enough, but when we rushed our 7-year-old daughter, Emma, to the hospital in April 2014 with strep throat and a 104-degree temperature, we had no idea it was just the first stop on a far more frightening journey. After being transferred to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Emma was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Acute Undifferentiated Leukemia. As difficult as it was to learn that our child had cancer, there was comfort in knowing that the cancer specialists at Connecticut Children’s would be with us every step of the way.

Once past the shock and tears that followed the official diagnosis, my husband Brian and Iwere eager for Emma to begin treatment. Acute Leukemia is a rapidly progressive cancer of the blood that starts in blood-forming tissue. In this type of cancer, the bone marrow produces an abnormally large number of immature white blood cells that enter the bloodstream, replacing normal white blood cells and leaving the body more vulnerable to infection. In children, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) and Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) are the two most common types of leukemia. In Emma’s case, she had a mixed type with both ALL and AML cells, or blasts, present.

Emma began her first round of chemotherapy on May 20, 2014, and was hospitalized for 35 days. Following two weeks at home, she returned to Connecticut Children’s for a second roundof chemotherapy in July and August. During her third course of chemo, she developed sepsis, a potentially life-threatening illness, and was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for a week. With her immune system already weakened from the cancer fight, we worried for Emma as she battled – and overcame – this new complication.

Emma---200pxBy the end of September 2014, Emma was ready to travel to Boston where she underwent a bone marrow transplant. Our son, Alex, who was 11 years old at the time, was a perfect match. With his unselfish act as Emma’s bone marrow donor, she was able to return home the first week in November.

Today, I am happy to report that Emma is in remission, undergoing regular checkups every three months. She is a spunky kid who, at age 10, loves dancing, painting and conducting science experiments. Her favorite song, not surprisingly, is “Fight Song.”

Yes, Emma is a fighter and a survivor and we are proud of her and the bravery she has shown through this entire process. Through it all, the expert staff at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, including Emma’s hematologist/oncologist, Natalie Bezler, MD, have been therefor us. We are also proud that Emma was selected as this year’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Connecticut Champion. In this capacity, Emma will serve as a fundraising awareness ambassador for Connecticut Children’s and for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Every day there are children, just like Emma, who will receive an unexpected cancer diagnosis – and some will have cancers that are more difficult to treat than others. That’s why research is ongoing at Connecticut Children’s. Won’t you please consider making a gift today to give allkids in Connecticut the hope and care they deserve to win the battle against childhood cancer?

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Allyson Duffin
A very grateful mom