Saturday, March 25, 2023

Finding joy in the darkness: A teenage cancer patient’s story of hope, family and an amazing trip

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(BPT) - Emma Frommeyer is a typical teenager in so many ways. She loves music, makeup and hanging out with friends. She’s also an incredibly smart honor roll student, however, there is one thing that sets her apart from most teenagers … Emma has a brain tumor and is fighting for her life.

“She called me one day to come get her from school, which is not her,” said Emma’s mother, Dacia Wood. “Three hours later doctors told us she had a tumor. Tears were running down my face, but she laughed and said, ‘I knew it.’”

Nine days after her 13th birthday, Emma was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of brain cancer (group 3 medulloblastoma). Since then, her life has revolved around hospitals, going through radiation, and a lot of therapy, but Emma has faced these challenges with grace and joy. She had successful surgery to resect the tumor, then went to inpatient rehab to build her strength and endurance. She is currently going through a year of IV chemotherapy.

“We always say that I was probably the best one (in her family) to get cancer,” said Emma. “I made it good. The only time it was sad was when I would get emotional or upset about it. Other than that, it was a fun time. It’s brought me closer to my family, especially my mom and my aunt. We’re always together and we laugh a lot.”

If ever there was proof of every storm cloud having a silver lining, Emma’s fight is it. She has spent these last few years battling through adversity, all the while remaining positive and optimistic. And this has allowed her to build an unbreakable connection with her mother. The time spent traveling to and from the hospital for treatment provided opportunities for the two of them to talk, laugh and sometimes cry. These regular trips, however, came with a financial cost as gas prices hit record highs.

This is where the Bear Fund became an invaluable part of team Emma.

“It was 50 miles one way, back and forth each time, and she had 30 visits,” said Wood. “That’s 100 miles. And gas, of course, is expensive. The Bear Fund stepped in by providing gas cards, which was a huge help. We wanted to focus on Emma’s treatment, so not having to worry about gas to get her to her appointments was a big deal for us.”

The Bear Fund was founded by Heather and Nick Baker after their youngest child, Barrett (“Bear”), was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer. During that time, the couple saw first-hand the economic challenges some families on the hospital floors were facing. They decided they wanted to help, so they established The Bear Fund, in partnership with the Cancer Support Community, to provide financial support and navigation services to families with children diagnosed with cancer.

“We walked by rooms to see children having to go through treatment or recover from surgery alone, and we realized there’s got to be something we can do to help,” said Heather Baker. “Parents shouldn’t have to worry about missing work, or the cost to find childcare for their other children, so they can be with their kids during treatment. We wanted to do what we could with the help of amazing donors to make this tough journey just a little bit easier.”

Among the Bear Fund’s many partners is California-based Mercury Insurance, and their philanthropic initiative, Mercury Cares. The company was introduced to Emma and her incredible story through the Bear Fund and the Cancer Support Community and decided to give Emma an experience to remember.

“Mercury Cares partners with like-minded organizations that are committed to providing valuable services to the customers and communities we help protect,” said Erik Thompson, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Mercury Insurance. “We were struck by Emma’s courage and the unwavering support she received from her family, so we wanted to give them something so they could step away from being Emma the cancer patient. We wanted her to enjoy an experience as Emma, the 13-year-old girl who loves her family.”

Since her diagnosis, Emma hasn’t had the opportunity to do the things many 13-year-olds are able to do. To remedy that, Mercury Cares gifted Emma and her family the trip of a lifetime, sending the entire family to Southern California, away from hospitals and treatments, so they could spend time together creating memories.

“Mercury showed how much they care when they gifted a dream trip to Los Angeles so Emma could see one of her favorite music artists and enjoy some beach time with her family,” said Tara Conner, Emma’s aunt. “She’d never seen the ocean, and we are so thankful for the joy that it’s brought.”

Emma’s story is captured in a series of videos, allowing everyone to get to know this amazing young woman and watch her journey, as she shares her story to inspire and empower others.

“I always wanted to have a close relationship with my family, so when I finally got that, I was really happy,” said Emma.