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Emrie Bravely Took On AML, Earning Every One of Her Beads of Courage

What doctors originally believed to be an eye infection turned out to be a side effect of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), initiating a long but successful cancer fight for 2-year-old Emrie Buchanan.

Girl with pediatric cancer smiling with flower in hand

When 2-year-old Emrie began to lose her hair, her mom, Jamie, carefully snipped off her curls. Her dad, Scott, then used his own clippers to shave the rest. “I was holding her as I shaved the last part, and when I was done, Emrie reached up to feel her head,” Scott says. “I thought surely she was going to cry, but she just reached over and touched my head and said, ‘Just like Daddy.’”

An unwelcome holiday surprise

It was during the holidays that Emrie first came to the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta with what doctors initially thought was an eye infection. A biopsy performed on Christmas Day, however, confirmed that the swelling around Emrie’s eyes was actually a side effect of AML.

Emrie had seven cancerous lesions—behind both eyes, on her kidneys, in her lung and near her spine—that required immediate treatment. “We didn’t have a Christmas,” says Scott. “Emrie was admitted to the hospital right away and didn’t leave until after her first round of chemo, which was 10 days later.”

Choosing joy over fear

Emrie needed four rounds of chemotherapy in all, each requiring a hospital stay. There were hurdles along the way, including a sudden recurrence of cancer cells that appeared in her spinal fluid and a serious respiratory infection, but the treatment was successful. “In six months, there were only two days that Emrie was too sick to get out of bed,” says Scott. “Most of the time, she was up running around, smiling, doing her own blood pressure cuff and playing with the thermometer. She was happy through the whole thing.”

On June 19, 2017, Emrie completed her last inpatient treatment and rang the end-of-treatment bell in front of a crowd of nurses, doctors and family members who were there to cheer her on. When she left the hospital, Emrie took with her a heavy box full of colorful “beads of courage” she had collected throughout her treatment. They represent every act of bravery, every needle stick, every test and every doctor exam she faced along the way.

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