30 DAYS/30 STORIES® 2022
You never know how strong you are until strong is your only choice. Being a parent is the hardest job you will ever have. It gets even harder when your child is sick or ‘different.’
On April 27, 2022, Emersyn was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer called retinoblastoma at two years old. We had noticed a few months prior that her right eye was changing colors and started to look lazy. We took her to a local optometrist thinking she would simply have to wear a patch over her eye. Instead we left with a huge pit in our stomachs as the optometrist instantly called our pediatrician demanding that we see a specialist immediately. The next day we saw an Ophthalmologist in Philadelphia that believed Emersyn was already partially, if not fully blind in her right eye. Naturally a two-year-old doesn’t sit well for an eye exam so he could not confirm anything, but he immediately called Wills Eye Hospital to get us in for more extensive tests. The next day we went to Wills Eye Hospital for more tests and met a surgeon - the great Carol Sheilds. Dr. Sheilds confirmed there was a tumor in her eye- Emmy had cancer. The ‘C’ word. The word that sinks your heart and leaves you numb. We went into survival mode and just tried to make it through each day with a positive attitude for our baby girl, who had no idea what was going on. We were told to return the following Monday for an MRI to see if the cancer had spread beyond her eye.
Sunday night Emersyn woke up with a stomach bug that was going around daycare. Still sick in the morning, we had to reschedule the MRI for Tuesday. Unfortunately, the anesthesia left poor Emmy even more listless and she was admitted to CHOP for extreme dehydration and low blood sugar. The MRI confirmed that the cancer did not spread beyond her eye, but it was VERY close to leaking out. They sent us home on Wednesday only to return to Philly for an enucleation on Thursday. While we were elated to learn she would not need additional chemo, our daughter had just lost her right eye. As a parent, you never want to see your child hurting or in pain. We struggled not being able to explain anything that was going on to her. It was easy to tell her that her eye was sick, but dealing with the anger and emotion that came as she began to process what happened was not easy.
What started with a weird gut feeling that something was wrong turned into a nightmare that ultimately saved Emersyn’s life. The road ahead is long, and we know it will come with many challenges as she gets older. But as of May 5, 2022, our daughter was declared cancer-free. We thank God every day for saving our baby girl. Every laugh, every cry, every meal together is a gift we could have lost. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. And while I’m still trying to find the reason for this, I have to believe that God has a good one. Since the surgery, Emersyn hasn’t skipped a beat. She has gotten her prosthetic eye and proudly shows it to her friends at daycare. She is still her silly, crazy self and an inspiration to all our family and friends.
Written by Emersyn’s mom, Shelby
Please consider helping children with cancer and others in our community by scheduling a blood donation at Miller-Keystone Blood Center: https://donor.giveapint.org/donor/schedules/zip