Emily "Emma" Whitehead :: My Journey Fighting Leukemia » My journey fighting childhood cancer.

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Many of you who are not from our area probably haven’t heard but there was a tragedy in our small town today. There was a shooting at our local grocery store where two people died. It’s hard to believe that something like this could happen in our small town. Our hearts go out to the families and workers affected by today’s events. County Market always supports many fundraisers in our community, including for Emily.

This comes after a a series of other sad events for us during the past week or so. Nora, the little girl who traveled from Croatia to CHOP to try to get in the T-cell clinical trial, passed away early last week before she could get her cells. We will always remember Nora and her parents who did everything they possibly could to try to save their little girl ♥ ♥ ♥

A few days later we learned that one of THON family members, Nicholas Pantalone, passed away. We loved reading his CaringBridge posts. Even though he fought cancer every day he always had a positive attitude. He continued to attend college and worked at Hershey Park every summer – he had a passion for roller coasters. He spoke at THON in 2011 and gave one of the most inspiring speeches we’ve ever heard. You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQp1VRKvP5Y
We will miss reading his updates.

Late last week we learned that a friend of ours found out he had a brain tumor that required surgery. His baby girl passed away from cancer late last year. Please keep their family in your prayers.

It makes us even more grateful and appreciate every day we have with Emily and our family ♥

We will post an update on Emily tomorrow – we have a lot of catching up to do!


Photo: Tom, Kari and Emily in the new space at the Perelmen Center for Advanced Medicine beside a wall display highlighting the team of doctors and researchers who work on the T-cell clinical trial. Emily has always really liked the photo of the cells right above the doctors!

A few weeks ago we spent the day in Philadelphia at Penn to speak at the Abramson Cancer Center Director’s Leadership Council meeting. We had a chance to talk with a few of the extraordinary people who helped to fund the T-cell research that saved Emily’s life. Some provided private funding or endowments for the research very early on when no one else believed in the research. They all mentioned that after talking with Dr. June that they just believed in him and believed his research would save lives. It was an honor to speak to this group who supported the research from the beginning. Without them, Emily would not be here. One person came to me and told me that her brother passed away from leukemia 23 years ago. The day after she started an endowment fund and has since been providing funding for cancer research. She said  she has been waiting 23 years to hear a success story like Emily. It made us realize the importance of sharing Emily’s story so that we can do our small part to raise awareness, and hopefully the needed funding, for pediatric cancer research. We also got to see the new (bigger) lab space where they are modifying the T-cells. After that, we went to visit Avrey and her family. Avrey is 10-years old and recently recently received her T-cells (you can follow her Facebook page Pray for Avrey Walker). She needs a miracle too.

After that, we visited the Penn Museum because Emily heard that there were mummies there – but after seeing the mummies she said they were a little “creepy”. It was a really wonderful day!


Photo: Emily “Emma” Whitehead poses with Devin Schiaffino, Mike Pendleton, and Chelsea Slavin, members of her THON organization (PRSSA – Public Relations Student Society of America). Devin and Chelsea were two of the 700+ who participated as THON dancers and did not sleep or sit for 46-hours straight to raise money for pediatric cancer patients.

Words never can describe the magic of THON weekend. After we missed THON last year one of our main goals was “to get Emily to another THON”. And we did! It was so exciting to be back! The THON community was such a huge support system for us over the past few years and particularly over the past year. THON raised $12,374,034.46 which is incredible. Thank you to everyone who donated!! Thank you to our dancers, Chelsea and Devin, who stood for 46 hours (THON dancers (all 700+ of them) do not sleep or sit for 46 hours straight)! Enjoy the photos! And THANK YOU to everyone who purchased the Emily Believe magnets to benefit THON! If you would like one you can still order them here.

  • kklkkl - Praise God! Thanks for all of the catch up posts. Em, you are a total rock star. i love all of the pictures and loved reading about all of your adventures.ReplyCancel