Community rallies around local teen with terminal cancer

Last week, Monroe Pediatrics’s Dr. Andrea Hill shared the story of one of her patients, a Monroe girl who has struggle with a cancer diagnosis since she was a toddler. Now, at the age of 18, Emileigh has received a diagnosis that nobody ever wants to receive – without surgery, she has 1 to 2 years to live. With surgery, she has a 40 % percent chance of survival, but the surgery required will take away her remaining leg.

“When she was a toddler she was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma (a cancer in her leg) and had her right leg removed. Over the years, she came into my office, always smiling, even when her prosthetic limb was too short from growth spurts and she was limping with terrible pain, even when her flap of skin was irritated and causing pain from her prosthesis rubbing it,” Dr. Hill said in a Facebook post. “She boldly fought and worked to do things other kids could do. She played soccer, she learned to swim. When she was old enough, she learned to drive a car. She never complained to me. She never complained when kids teased her and made fun of her leg, she never complained when she didn’t have many friends like other kids, after all – she always had her mom. As an only child the two of them have always been very very close.”

Then this summer, Emileigh began to have hip pain in her left hip, her good leg.

“She rose gracefully to the challenge needed when she was was told she had osteosarcoma of her left hip, and started chemotherapy,” Hill said. But then the family took a look at the situation and Emileigh made a decision. Her mother, Jennifer Cawthon, wrote about the decision on her Facebook page.

“I’ve been debating how to make this post for weeks now. Every time I start to type I cry. I wanted to give an update on what’s been doing on with my baby girl. We got the CT scans results back last week and they weren’t what we had hoped for. The scan showed that the cancer is now in her Lymphovascular system in the hip area. She has a high risk of something breaking off during surgery and spreading to her lungs. Her chance at survival is 40% with the surgery. Her prognosis is 1-2 years without the surgery. After long talks with her, my family and a conference with her team of doctors, she has decided not to do the surgery. She wants to live her life to the fullest, drive her car and be a teenager until she can’t do those things anymore. No teenager should ever have to make that type of decision. She is the bravest and strongest person I know and I plan to do everything in my power to make whatever she wants to do happen. God has the last say so! Please continue to keep us in your prayers. Thank you! God bless!”

Hill shared this information, something she wouldn’t normally do with a patient, but something she wanted to do after talking it over with Emileigh and her mom,” in hopes it will reach someone who needs to hear it.”

“Her mother has never had a high paying job, she has run out of unemployment and is terrified at the idea of going back to work and missing the last days of her daughter’s life. They have been helped by social workers and social security, as well as a Gofundme that helped pay rent for several months. And still they struggle.

“We are helping from our office. But, too often people help short term and aren’t still around to help to the end. I am asking members of our community to think about Emileigh and her mother. Although they have had some limited social support, I think Walton County can do better. Please message me with your ideas. Please do not offer to bring our office money for them – message me with ways you would like to help for the next 1-2 years so that Emileigh and her mom can enjoy the time together without worrying about how they are going to eat next week. 

“I don’t normally post about patients. But, this year has been rough for everyone. I want to remind you all that research (I love research) has shown that giving to others is one of the best ways to help improve personal happiness. Well, here is a great opportunity for many of you to increase your happiness and help a wonderful girl in the process. This girl is a fighter, and she has fought all her life… I would love it if her mom didn’t have to fight as hard to pay her bills for the remainder of Emileigh’s life. Thank you in advance for your compassion.”

If anybody has any suggestions to help, they can message Dr. Hill at Monroe Pediatrics through her Facebook page. Alternatively, they can contribute to the GoFundMe Page for Emileigh.

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