I am running my first 5K as part of the Four Season’s Parkway Run & Walk event on September 30th which supports the Cancer Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)!
I have mentioned my daughter Emily in previous posts here and here. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in May 2010 when she was 5 years old. At that time, doctors told us that almost 90% of children with ALL are cured. Although she had a long journey ahead, which included 26 months of chemotherapy, we felt certain that with those odds she would be cured. We were shocked when we learned she had relapsed in October 2011. She had to begin a new treatment regime which consisted of 4 months of heavy chemotherapy and was scheduled for a bone marrow transplant in February 2012. Unfortunately, she relapsed again in February just two weeks before her scheduled transplant. Doctors tried another round of chemotherapy but was unable to get her back into remission. They told there wasn’t much more they could do because they didn’t think giving her more conventional chemotherapy would ever get her back into remission.
We were not ready to lose Emily and we were not giving up. We took her to CHOP and enrolled her in a highly experimental phase I clinical research trial. Emily was the first pediatric patient in the world to receive CART-19 cells. Emily’s own T-cells (a type of white blood cell) were removed from her blood and then in a lab were ‘trained’ to recognize and kill cancer cells. Once the T-cells were trained they were infused back into Emily’s blood. Although three adults were previously treated with CART-19 cells and had positive results doctors weren’t sure how or if the cells would work in a child. On May 10, 2012 we found out the CART-19 cells worked! They had killed all the leukemia cells in Emily’s body and she was in remission! Today, September 10th, marks 4 months since she has been in remission.
We know we would not have the time we have now with Emily if it wasn’t for the CART-19 trial and the brilliant and amazing doctors who took care of her. We think about that every single day. We saw firsthand how CHOP saves lives every day.
Our family’s motto is “We Believe”, so we named our team “Team Believe” for the Parkway Run & Walk. Please help us support the Cancer Center at CHOP — join or donate to Team Believe! http://giving.chop.edu/goto/KariW
Have you been interested in scheduling a photo session for Fall/Holiday Family Portraits? If you donate $50 or more to Team Believe you will receive a 30 minute photo session plus one 8x10 photo of your session for FREE! Just make your donation online (please make the donation in your name — if you check anonymous I cannot verify who it is) and send me an email (email@example.com) to let me know you made a donation of $50 or more. I will then be in touch to schedule your session! Sessions will take place the end of September through the middle of October. A limited number of sessions are available. You will also receive discounts through my online ordering system for any additional photos/products you order! I am SO excited to give back!
Emily, now 7 years old, is doing fantastic and started 2nd grade two weeks ago! You can read more about Emily’s story on her Facebook Page: Prayers for Emily (Emma) Whitehead or Caringbridge.
This photo of my 6-year old daughter Emily was taken on Easter just a few weeks ago. I am especially grateful this Mother’s Day. It has been almost one year ago that she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). It has been a rough year but I have learned to cherish each moment I have with my daughter even more. She has been a little self conscious of her hair because it’s still growing back in but I think it looks adorable. We plan to spend Mother’s Day outside planting flowers!
Have a great Mother’s Day!