Emma Miller has spent more time in her two years of life in the hospital than some of us will in a lifetime. Watching her play on her living room floor, you would never know she was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 8 months old, save for the cathater coming out of her chest.
Jenn Miller, Emma's mom, said that learning of Emma's diagnosis and starting treatment more than a year ago was both overwhelming and scary. It's not something you plan for, she said.
"We took her to the pediatrician who noticed some problems like bruising on her legs. She looked pale, she wasn't gaining weight, her liver and spleen were enlarged. He immediately sent us for blood work and scans. Before we knew it, we were at Sinai. She was admitted for five weeks," Miller said.
"We didn't even have time to think about it, it all happened so fast. She was so little, it was so scary."
Because Emma was less than a year old, the treatment is more aggressive. Jenn explained that had Emma been over a year old, her treatments would have lasted longer but they wouldn't have been as intense.
Miller recalled those initial weeks in the hospital, and there have been plenty of long hospital stays since then, when she felt like a prisoner in the hospital room.
"Emma couldn't leave the room and I didn't want to leave Emma, so I spent a lot of time in that hospital room," Jenn said.
Jenn was a first grade teacher at Runnymede Elementary School. She said that she never returned to work after learning of Emma's diagnosis in early November of 2009.
"I had to be in the hospital with Emma. Then when we finally brought her home, she needed so much care, she was so fragile. There was just no way I could work," Miller said. "It was a really tough year."
As a result, Emma's father works two jobs, which means he is away from home a lot, and Jenn is home caring for Emma. She said it's difficult because Emma's immune system is still weak and any illness can make her very sick. Emma can't go to daycare or preschool or spend time in kids' classes at gyms or play centers.
Jenn said that as of today, Emma is in remission. She continues treatments and will be closely monitored for some time. If she relapses, Jenn said that Emma will need a bone marrow transplant. Emma has a cathater in her chest so that medications and treatments can be administered. Jenn is hoping that the cathater will come out in the fall, although she said Emma doesn't even know it doesn't belong there.
"She thinks everyone has one. She doesn't mind it at all," Jenn laughed.
On Sunday, April 17, family friend Dianne Wrobel will be hosting a fundraiser to benefit the Miller Family. Money raised will help the Millers pay for medical and hospital expenses.
The event will take place at American Legion Post 116, 1090 Westminster Pike, in Reisterstown from noon to 6 p.m. Various vendors will be on site selling goods and services and they will donate a portion of their proceeds to the Miller Family. Some of the vendors include Azuli Skye Jewelry, Longaberger Baskets, Hairport Hair Salon, Creative Memories, Pampered Chef, Scentsy, Pre-Paid Legal Services, Arbonne, Herbalife, Mary Kay and Tupperware.
There will be a kid’s craft corner, activities, door prizes, Chinese auction items and light refreshments.
“The money will go to help us with medical bills, co-pays, hospital stays. This has been scary financially. We didn’t plan to be a one income family,” Jenn said.
Today the Miller family celebrates Emma’s success in getting to remission. But Jenn said that she does worry about the disease coming back. Just this winter the family was concerned that Emma had relapsed but it appears that it was a cold or virus.
“We don’t know how she got it, and we don’t know how long she had it before it was diagnosed. It’s just so sad because when she’s in pain, being so young, she can’t tell me what’s wrong,” Jenn said.
However, in spite of the guarded optimism, both Emma and Jenn are all smiles at the thought of spring. Jenn said she will be happy to be outdoors in the sunshine with Emma.