Bloom With Grace: Emmy's Brain Surgery Journey

Where do I even begin? For those of you that don’t know Emmy, let me just say…You. Are. Missing. Out.  She is selfless, thoughtful, patient, beautiful, intelligent and the most dependable person I know.  I first met Emmy when she began her teaching career at a school in Federal Way, WA.  We taught first grade on the same team and, unlike most first year teachers I know, she took on every single challenge that was thrown her way with a positive attitude.  She was always smiling, incredibly calm, extremely patient and disgustingly optimistic.  I knew from the beginning that there was something magical about this lady.  Since then, she has grown to be a dear friend of mine who would drop everything in a pinch (and has, for the record) if I needed her.  She is quite literally an angel on Earth. 

This past summer, Emmy began getting intense headaches.  As the frequency and duration of her headaches increased, she began noticing that her balance was off, too.  Not thinking too much of it, Emmy scheduled a visit with her doctor where they did some routine check-ups.  Just to be safe, she also scheduled an MRI, being as Emmy had brain surgery in high school where she had a tumor removed.  She was told it was benign and wouldn’t grow back, but, best to be safe.  Emmy was at my house the day before Thanksgiving and we spent the day getting beautiful flowers (we’re obsessed with Fernseed’s new stem bar), making a delicious apple pie (or trying), and watching the Bachelorette (guilty pleasure).  She left early to go get her MRI done and called shortly after to update me on how it went—quicker than she remembered and “not so bad” (I told you, always positive).  Thanksgiving came and went and Friday morning I got a call from Emmy.

Her MRI results came back and showed she had a large tumor on her cerebellum.  As you can imagine, Thanksgiving weekend quickly transformed into days of meeting with doctors and scheduling surgery.  Over that same weekend, Emmy had to say goodbye to her class of little first grade loves, as she is unable to work through this. 

A couple days later, she underwent brain surgery on December 1st, which was followed by several days at the hospital.  There were some bumps in the road post-surgery, but she was transferred to inpatient rehab after a week in the ICU.  There, she was able to start physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, which consumed most of her days.  Oh, did I mention she also ate a lot of cookies?  She was able to do that, too.

In all this crazy, the pathology report came back that Emmy’s tumor was back.  She was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive type of cancer—Anaplastic Pilocytic Astrocytoma.  It is a high-grade level 3 tumor, meaning it is on the verge of level 4. When she called to tell me this, in true Emmy fashion, she told me it’s not worth being sad over (yeah, okay…see? she’s incredibly selfless and amazing) and that when she beats this, she’ll be famous and in all the textbooks.  

Emmy was able to connect with an oncologist who is one of two doctors in Washington state that have treated patients with this type of cancer.  Being that it is so rare, there were a few different options as far as treatment plans went.  Emmy was cleared to head home on December 19th, just in time for Christmas, (if you know Emmy, you know this was very, very important) where the following days were figuring out next steps in her treatment plan.

Since being home, Emmy’s weeks have been absolutely filled with eye doctor appointments, oncology appointments, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, the list goes on and on.  She opted to go with starting radiation in January, where she gets to re-evaluate and talk about next steps with her oncologist after the six weeks.  She has been going to radiation everyday during the week and has been making improvements on walking, speech and mobility in fine motor tasks, such as writing or tying shoes…things you and I take for granted every single day.  Her last radiation appointment is set for March 4th then she will meet with her oncologist on March 11th to check how her body responded and determine next steps. 

All this to be said that Emmy’s journey is far from over.  We will see what next steps entail once she meets with her oncologist next month.  Medical expenses add up insanely fast in this healthcare system and this journey is definitely no exception.  There is a teacher that Emmy was able to connect with who underwent brain surgery earlier last year and her surgery cost her upwards of $583,000!!  Emmy is unable to finish out this school year and will be unable to work next year, too. In the meantime, Axel has been working his tail off and she has been receiving unconditional love and support from him, her family, and friends.  We are hoping the donations from this GoFundMe can provide even the smallest relief and alleviate some stress in all the expenses being thrown their way during this time.  A donation in any amount will be much appreciated and I know Emmy + Axel will be forever grateful for your generosity and thoughtfulness.  Keep your prayers, positive thoughts, and well wishes coming—we have a strong lady on our hands who is ready to fight!

Click here to order your own Bloom With Grace Emmy Tee 

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Organizer and beneficiary

Megan Aarsvold 
Tacoma, WA
Emily Mcgee