Chasing Away Childhood Cancer

Emily Kate Wooddin’s Story

Emily Kate Wooddin was always a healthy, active little girl and rarely experienced any health concerns. So when she became extremely unwell in October 2009, we knew something was seriously wrong with our daughter. Over the course of 8 weeks Emily experienced a dramatic decline in health. She became extremely lethargic, had no appetite what-so-ever, and lost 4 kgs off her already tiny frame. ( I used to cry when she would get in the bath or get undressed because my child was literally fading away). She was in immense pain ( bony pain), was gray in color and no life in her eyes… in hind sight this is because cancer was consuming her body. Emily was literally dying before our eyes.

After numerous hospital appointments, blood tests etc she was diagnosed with a Glandular Fever type virus and we were advised to “ride it out.” Her health continued to decline so we pushed and pushed for further investigations. On January 8th, 2010, in Christchurch Public Hospital, a mass was discovered in her abdomen… it was the size of an orange. On the same day I felt a lump on the left side of Emily’s skull. An ultrasound of her abdomen confirmed our worst fears. Emily had a malignancy of some kind). The tumor was then biopsied and was discovered to be Neuroblastoma. A bone scan and bone marrow aspiration further confirmed that the cancer had metastasized. We were taken aside by the oncologist and told that Emily ( then aged 6 ) had Stage 4 Neuroblastoma and had just a 20 – 30% chance of survival. Her oncologist said ” The outlook is not good but there is hope. ” This news was obviously devastating to us all.

The next day the fight began. Emily was immediately fed via nasal gastric feeding and was also fed intravenously. She was in such poor condition given that she had not been eating for 9 weeks. A central line put in and immediately proceeded with her treatment regime. This consisted of 8 rounds of chemotherapy ( each round was 10 days apart and lasted for 3 days ), high dose chemo followed by a stem cell transplant, surgery to remove the tumor and her left kidney, 14 rounds of radiation, 6 grueling rounds of immunotherapy and 6 months of oral Accutane. This treatment was accompanied by approx 20 general anesthetics, ongoing nausea and vomiting, social and psychological issues, complications from the chemo, high temperatures and neutropenia.

Emily finished treatment in February 2011 and is currently considered to be in complete remission. While this is a good thing the risk of relapse is 50% so we are certainly not out of the woods! Since the end of treatment Emily has had two CT scans, both of which have showed No Evidence of Disease (NED). Long may this continue. Emily is back at school full time and is loving life. She walks on her tip toes as a result of treatment, but otherwise lives a normal life.. ( whatever “normal” is these days). Emily is the eldest of our 4 precious children. Her baby brother was born 6 months into her treatment regime. She is an asset to our family and we couldn’t imagine life without her. She showed strength and resilience throughout the treatment and continues to inspire and amaze us all. We have to find a cure for Neuroblastoma! The physical pain for the children and the mental torture for the parents is so cruel! Let’s turn our fear into fundraising and CHASE AFTER A CURE!

On March 9, 2012, Emily relapsed in her jaw. She fought a long courageous battle and on October 30, 2012, at the age of 8 years old, Emily Wooddin passed away. Her mother, father and siblings miss her terribly.