From the pages of FLL#37
Feature photo by Kari Lehman
Sidebar photo by Will Marks
Hair by Amy Sue Barnhardt of Styles Underground
MARCH 31, 2018
It’s memorized, this date. Memorized and shared with optimistic certainty. All hopes and dreams are marked by a random date a little more than two years from now. On this date, Emily’s twelve-year-old son’s monthly spinal taps, blood transfusions, daily doses of chemo therapy, antibiotics, steroids, and, as the mom and registered nurse describes, “a concoction of poisons designed for the end of days, but instead go into my child to save him” will end. It will mark the time that the T-Cell Leukemia which wages battle in her son’s body is defeated.
NOVEMBER 25, 2014
Swollen glands, flu-like symptoms of exhaustion, and malaise were never seen in her active, happy, soccerplaying son. But, one phone call. One trip to Hershey Medical Center. One test that registered a white blood cell count of 55,00 when it should have been 4,500 to 10,000. Emily knew something was wrong. Maybe it was because she is a mom, or maybe it was her training as a nurse, but she knew her baby was seriously ill. She hoped that it was not serious. As her instincts screamed leukemia, she pleaded to let it be the more treatable B-Cell type. But, it wasn’t. It was the leukemia that resides in the blood called T-Cell, the cancer that must be treated aggressively and constantly through treatments that hit it where it sits— in the spinal column and the central nervous system.[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“CRAZY STUFF HAPPENS. NO ONE IS SAFE, BUT MY JOURNEY HAS TAUGHT ME GREAT HUMILITY. YOU THINK YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL”.[/pullquote]
Emily Walker is a 34-year-old single mother of two beautiful children, Alyssa (15) and Jaden (12). She is a registered nurse and lactation consultant, and a lover of camping, traveling, poetry (specifically Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata), Doctors without Borders, Waylon Jennings, and Spanish food (specifically rice and beans). Emily finds herself defined by the battles her son must wage against an enemy that is ruthless and unwavering. Her old-fashioned appointment book is jam-packed with endless days that have her racing from one spot to another, post-it notes, reminders, and so many bills that must be paid. Talented doctors and dedicated armies have helped her son fight, but it has taken a toll on her and the family. Emily admits that sleep escapes her, migraines plague her, and “emotional curve balls” are now a part of her life. Yet, she appears so strong and so focused. Her piercing blue eyes stare straight at me, and in them I find a woman who confesses that, “All of this is so unsettling. Crazy stuff happens. No one is safe, but my journey has taught me great humility. You think you can have it all.” With a shake of her head and a knowing sigh, she then admits her perspective on life has been forever changed. “I just try to be good to people, kind and seeing.” Emily can best be described as raw, vulnerable, and damn mad at what her son has had to endure. She would love to be able to turn back time to before the diagnosis, but instead looks to the future and the hope that in health, Jaden will fulfill his Make a Wish Dream—going to Barcelona, Spain and seeing the great Lionel Messi play soccer. As Emily says, “Jaden has given the ultimate sacrifice; his freewill to shape his own destiny has been taken away. He has sacrificed so much, but maybe Barcelona and Messi can start to replace all of those missed experiences.”
APRIL 1, 2018
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans… (Ehrmann, Desiderata) Soccer games, proms, graduations, marriages, travel, and family: cancer-free and love throughout.
For her photoshoot, Emily enjoyed a few moments of pampering at Styles Underground. Her beautiful, luxurious hair was styled by Amy Sue Barnhardt and worn with pride as she went about her many chores of the day. “It felt fantastic to get my hair done. I was able to relax and enjoy myself,” Emily says with a smile. We at FLL will be following Jaden, and hopefully publishing photos of him in Spain and beyond.
If our generous FLL readers would like to see Jaden’s Barcelona wish come true, please think about “adopting” Jaden’s wish by giving directly to our local Make-A-Wish chapter in Lancaster.
Philadelphia, Northern Delaware and Susquehanna Valley
1054 New Holland Avenue
Lancaster, PA 17601
(in care of Jaden Walker)
All locally donated money helps to grant the wishes of local children, just like Jaden.