‘You Never Know When Things Could Change in an Instant’ Says Pediatric Cancer Survivor


In an interview with CURE®, Emily Whitehead details her journey as a pediatric cancer survivor and how you won’t be able to predict it.

Emily Whitehead was just five years old when she was diagnosed with standard-risk pre-b acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2010. Though her parents, Tom and Kari, were told that she had a good chance of recovery, Emily underwent 16 months of chemotherapy. Then, just two weeks before a scheduled bone marrow transplant, Emily relapsed for a second time.

The Whiteheads thought they were out of options, until a phase 1 trial examining the use of CAR-T cell therapy opened up at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in April 2012, making Emily the first child to receive CAR-T cell therapy. This treatment turned out to be what the Whiteheads now call a miracle, and here, Emily, who has been in remission since May 2012, offers her take on what it was like to go through treatment and offers some advice to other patients who may be in a similar situation.


CURE: What was it like going through cancer treatment as a child?

Emily: It's definitely a really difficult thing to go through, and you really need the support of other people, whether that be friends or family, or even a pet like my dog, Lucy. But I'm just so glad that more people have access to the treatment now, to less toxic treatments. And really all that you can do is just never stop and always keep fighting and just try to keep hoping you'll get through it.

What advice do you have for other patients with pediatric cancer?

I always tell them to never give up, to always keep fighting and to always believe in yourself and just to try and smile every day because you never know when things could change in an instant.

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