Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Emily's Story: A Child's Battle Against Cancer

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” ~Winston Churchill

I’ve not seen a more remarkable attitude than that displayed by cancer warriors. Among these warriors is a 12-year-old young lady, Emily, who is battling Osteosarcoma, a bone cancer. You might recognize her name since we have been praying for her on this blog.

I’m privileged to share this update on Emily, the beautiful daughter of Steve and Nicki Kempen. Steve has graciously bared his soul and feelings regarding Emily’s progress and her future below. I'm sure his words will inspire you to lift this family up in your prayers. 
The past couple of months have been extremely difficult mentally/emotionally...which is odd to me...considering that Emily has progressed extremely well. 

First, I'll update you on Emily's status, and then if you want to stick around for additional reading, I will try to add perspective to the past couple of months.

Emily is scheduled to have her Chemo Port removed from her chest and have a few of her leg wounds revised on Wednesday, October 10th, at 7:00 am EST. Even though this is supposed to be a minor procedure, compared to everything else she has endured, it is still scary, and has us (Nicki and I) nervous. As far as Emily is concerned, she is excited and ready to get the surgery finished. We would appreciate prayers for a safe surgery that does not have any complications, successfully removes the port, shows that there is NO CANCER, and revises her leg wounds so they can heal properly.

Her physical therapy has been going well. She is now placing about 40% of her weight on her left leg. Our therapist races her with his non-dominant leg, and she can hold her own pretty fact she has won a couple of the walk-abouts. Her activity level increases every day.

Emily is keeping up with the 6th grade, and taking tests from her home bound teacher. I am extremely proud to report that she has passed all tests with high marks...even though she works and manages through chemo fog. Her spirit, kindness, and determination still amazes me! Oh, and she already has more hair than me. My kindred follicle spirit has moved on...and I am happy for her! We are now trying to guess if the treatment changed her hair color...

Britanny [Emily’s twin] is adjusting well to life in Middle School, as well. Her grades are outstanding, and she has scored well in her Advanced Placement classes. Soccer has been a little rough...a lot of players have turned over, and they are learning to play together. However, the chemistry of the team is fantastic. All of the girls get along well. Hopefully, the group will understand they are in a transition phase and stick together. The potential is great.

As mentioned above, the past two months have been odd. Hearing the "all clear" on the scans, and Emily completing chemo were two of the happiest moments we have ever experienced. However, it seems bittersweet. Our lives have a new normal...and we are still trying to figure out what normal is.

My mind obsesses with the lingering question: "How do we make sure more cancer or side effects never appear?" Prayer? Meditation? Stress Relief? Diet? Exercise? Vitamins? Lucky Pennies? Investigational stuff? What do we do? Where do we go? How do we help? How can we make sure the scans are always clear? 

Last Saturday (September 29th) at 11:00PM EST, most of the Osteosarcoma Board Members joined in prayer to heal, and help all of those impacted by this deadly disease. Osteosarcoma can take many things, but we can never let it take our spirit, our hope, or our will to win! That is easier said than done. Our prayer list contained over 200 children, brothers, sisters, husbands, fathers, mothers, and friends that have battled Osteosarcoma. Some battled bravely without success, many are still battling bravely despite a difficult prognosis, some have completed round one and are optimistically moving forward (Emily), several are just getting started in their treatment, and many have beaten Osteosarcoma.

The past two months, while positive for Emily, have been difficult for many. Several Osteo Warriors passed, and several (that we are close to) received news that Osteo spread to their lungs, or that the chemo was not working well. In addition, several children that we know battling other forms of cancer earned their Angel Wings.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death among children. It has been years since a new treatment has been approved for children with cancer...almost 20 years for Osteosarcoma.

Did you know that September was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month?

Did you know that only $1.00 of every $100.00 raised for cancer is directed toward children's cancer research? The $1.00 is then divided among the various forms of childhood cancer. I was shocked to learn of these statistics.

The past several months have been extremely busy with school, work, and activities. Some of the stuff we have experienced is so silly, trivial, goofy, utterly stupid, void of common sense, head scratching, shortsighted, or shallow...but somehow we still get caught in is that? I have no idea...but in the story of life. I think you can expect this kind of stuff will happen...and it is just noise, filler, and part of being human...all I can say is don't let the little bumps rattle you too much...and if you can, stop and laugh at some of the goofiness...

I know I get caught up in the silliness at times...yet perspectives change quickly when you realize a 12-year-old can't sleep because she is so excited to get a port removed from her chest or wants to visit children on the Cancer Floor she absolutely hated because she knows those children need friends. I am not sure how to verbalize or write the rest of my thoughts here, so I will leave the conclusion for your interpretation.

As always...THANK YOU for supporting us through prayer, support, and your kindness!

Steve, Nicki, Emily and Britanny Kempen 
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20

Father God, we lift up Emily to your grace and mercy. Place your hand upon Emily, her surgeons, and the operating room staff today. Thank you for the healing mercy you’ve already extended to her. Wrap her family in your comfort and peace during this difficult time. We admit we don’t understand the whys of cancer and other trials on this earth, but we know Who walks with us and strengthens us despite them. We give you all the praise, glory, and honor through your Son Jesus. Amen.

If you would like to leave a word of encouragement for Emily’s family, please do so. I know they would appreciate it!

Do you have a personal prayer need? I'd love to hear from you. Please share your requests in the comments section or email me confidential requests.

God bless,


  1. I am the mom of a lymphoma survivor, and I just said a prayer for you and your family. We are still climbing our way out of the side effect valley, but grow more optimistic with each passing month. It's complicated, but not without joys and victories!

    1. Thanks for sharing an encouraging word from your own experience. God bless you.

  2. My heart goes out to you (and all the other families) and my prayers go up!

  3. This is a remarkable family. Not to mention Emily is a fighter. She has gone through more than most might realize...the chemo, 12 hour surgery, several other smaller surgeries, several trips to the ER, office visits, 80% of her time in the hospital since December 2011, time missed with family and friends, being a active little girl and having to stop dance which she loves. Even through all of that she is a thoughtful and caring young lady. She has remained positive with the idea that she wasn't going to allow this ugly illness to destroy her. No child should have to go through this and Emily has triumphed through it like a hero. Our family feels blessed to be able to be a part of this journey with them because it has touched us in a way that will forever change our lives.

    1. Thank you, Trish, for sharing your insight. Emily's story has really touched me. I agree, no child should have to go through this. As I said, we don't understand the whys, but we know who walks through the trials with us. God bless you and the Kempen family. I pray Emily continues on this healing path.

  4. Thanks for adding the pics. One brave soldier!