Bette Williams, a third-grade teacher at Boulder Country Day School, sent us this essay about her super student, Emma Fowler, and we were so moved, we wanted to publish it exactly as she wrote it.
Emma Fowler’s writer’s notebook reads, “It all started on Spring Break. It was March 27, 2008. My family was packed and ready to go to Hawaii. My back was hurting extremely bad. I could not walk.” Emma’s third grade classmates address the task of writing a personal narrative with stories of broken arms, split chins and narrow escapes. Emma writes about cancer.
Emma’s Spring Break journey did not take her to Hawaii. A trip to the emergency room and Children’s Hospital confirmed that Emma had a tumor pushing on her spinal column. Emma was one of 250 children diagnosed each year with Ewings Sarcoma—a form of bone cancer. Emma was told she might never walk again. Her personal narrative continues, “My mom and dad cried and I cried. My brother cried. My sister cried. My dad did not want to lose me! I said I was not going anywhere.”
“I always heard about cancer but I never thought I’d have it,” Emma writes. Children’s Hospital became the Fowler family’s home away from home for the next eight months. A team of surgeons removed the tumor. Emma’s family celebrated the day she pushed herself up and painfully slid her legs over the edge of the bed. She was determined to walk—to return to her basketball team, hiking with her family and running to recess with her classmates.
During fourteen rounds of chemo delivered through an IV attached to a pole that limited her travels through Children’s Hospital, Emma became a celebrity on the seventh floor as she dressed that pole in a pink feather boa and visited other patients to spread her bigger-than-life indomitable spirit. Through twenty-five days of radiation laying on a table and remaining motionless while a machine buzzed around her, she maintained her sassy determination to enjoy every day of her life.
Her back and the lining of her esophagus were burned by radiation, her legs were covered in bruises, her hair fell out in clumps and she lost her fingernails. She endured countless pokes of needles for tests and blood transfusions. She became hypersensitive to the smell of food. Yet, between chemo and radiation rounds, every day that she could muster the energy, she drug herself out of bed and relished her time in the normal routine of lessons and music, art and computers, French and recess with her classmates. The only difference an outsider would have observed between Emma and her classmates was her cute, bald head.
She never discussed what happened on the days she wasn’t in school and never complained to teachers or classmates. In fact, during those days, when addressing the writing prompt “Sometimes I worry…,” she wrote, “I think about my friends like Lola. I worry if she is OK. I worry about my grades and I worry about my behavior, but I always worry about my friends. I am afraid they will get hurt.”
Emma’s feisty attitude that each day was a day closer to being done with cancer carried her through those eight months. Her personal narrative covers those months with several sentences about chemo and all the people she met at the hospital. This is what Emma is about. Her ordeal with cancer was a detour in her road of life. She’s moved on to meet the next challenge with her spunky, sassy, fortitude and courage.
Do you have a super kid in your life? Leave us a comment and share their greatness with the Yellow Scene community.