Emmett J.

Survivor Squad: Emmett

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


AGE: 13



Thirteen-year-old Emmett is big into hockey. He started skating when he was 4 and playing when he was 6. He had hockey hair. He skateboarded. He was outside playing sports every minute he could be.

Then when he was 10, he started to feel lightheaded and fatigued. His doctor thought Emmett had a virus. But Emmett had leukemia. And not just one, either. He had two kinds of leukemia; chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Between the two diseases, all of Emmett’s blood cells got really messed up.

Doctors first took all his blood out, cleaned it and put it back into his body again. Emmett then came to Roswell Park for chemotherapy. His hockey hair all fell out.

The chemo killed one of the leukemias, but for the other he had to have a bone marrow transplant (BMT), where bone marrow cells from a donor are transplanted into the patient so they’ll start to make healthy new bone marrow cells.

One really hard thing that can happen after a BMT is called graft-versus-hosts disease (GVHD), where the new immune cells from the donor mistakenly attack the patient’s normal cells. Emmett got sick a lot, especially in his digestive tract. He had to be on a liquid diet for months, and it took a long time for him to be able to eat normal food again.

After a lot of careful treatment, his doctors got both cancers into remission — but not for long. After 40 days, Emmett found out one of the leukemias had relapsed. After another procedure, he beat it again, and he’s now been cancer free since August 2016!

Emmett has a new perspective on life. He wants to help people now. And because of what he went through with GVHD, he doesn’t like to see food wasted.

“I couldn’t eat for so long, and just to think about other people that can’t eat, or don’t get food in other countries or continents or states, or anywhere — homeless people, poor people — it just makes me upset. I always think if you see someone like that, help them out.”

Battling cancer is really hard and sometimes completely awful. Even so, Emmett has a lot of good memories from his time at Roswell Park: the nurses, his friends coming to visit, spending time in Kaminski Park with his dad.

It was also magical — literally. Emmett would do magic for people in the hospital. One of the hospital pastors taught him. “It would make their day,” he says. “It was really nice.”

It won’t surprise you to learn that a hockey lover like Emmett loves the Buffalo Sabres. The players know him by name thanks to their frequent trips to Roswell Park — and because Emmett also got to visit the Sabres locker room, thanks to the Courage of Carly Fund.

When he grows up, Emmett wants to be either a professional hockey player or an anesthesiologist. Right now, he has a simple message for everyone going Bald for Bucks: “Raise as much money as you can, and let’s try to find a cure!”