ANKENY, Iowa –For one little girl, the nasty side effects of cancer quickly became a part of her short life.
Life is full of moments. And Emery Thompson's birth had to be one of the best. "Emery was born April 1st, 2016. It was an amazing day. She just completed our family."
But something bothered her parents Angie and Trent. “The day that she was born Trent actually noticed something on her jaw, her right jaw. It felt like a hard nodule," said Angie.
"The second doctor told us it didn't seem like it was anything major to worry about and we would follow up with it later," added Trent.
They followed up with an ENT. She had to have a procedure on her ears anyway. When she was five weeks old, her mom was at a garage sale and got the news no one expected. "I remember I was just standing there on this stranger's driveway. The biopsy came back and Emery has neuroblastoma. And, I had no idea what that was."
Neuroblastoma is a cancer that most commonly affects children five or younger. Some forms go away on their own while others require multiple treatments. "At that moment, I thought that was the worst moment of my life. But, no it wasn't. It definitely got worse," said Angie.
Emery went through eight rounds of chemo, spent two months in the hospital, and experienced seizures as a side effect. "She was always very happy. She went through a lot," said her dad.
"We had six months of a time where she wasn't officially declared NED, or no evidence of disease, but she seemed healthy and she was happy and we in our hearts felt like the cancer was gone."
In June 2017, the cancer came back. Emery tried immunotherapy, more chemo, and then even stronger chemo and radiation in the new year. Angie said, "The second day of radiation felt like a normal day. It was March 8th of this year. I took her downstairs. The anesthesiologist gave her sedation."
She developed severe breathing problems and stayed in the sedation room. “That morning was the last time she was awake,” said Angie.
"The morning of March 21st of this year, we looked at each other and we looked at Emery, we just couldn't put her through anymore.” Emery died that day.
“It was a very hard two years with a lot of bad moments. That was definitely the worst moment of our lives, having to explain that to our children."
Now, they're focused on sharing all the moments that made up Emery's short life. "What we can do is we can advocate for these children. We can tell Emery's story. We can raise awareness in hopes one day someone will hear us and no one will have to live through this like we did. That's our goal. We will keep fighting until no family has to go through this,” said Angie.
The Thompsons will be just one of many local families advocating for pediatric cancer awareness this Sunday at the CureFest walk in Ankeny. It starts at 2 p.m. at Crestbruck Park. It's a family friendly event and all are welcome. The National CureFest Walk will take place in Washington D.C. that morning.