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Meet Emma...A Patient Helping Patients

by Jessica Ekstrom May 29, 2015

"Ask most people and I am sure they would say being diagnosed with cancer is the worst thing imaginable.  No doubt, that’s true.  I still shudder at the memory of hearing the words “Emma, you have leukemia,” for the first time. My life changed completely on January 17th, 2012, when I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  As a high school student/athlete who had always enjoyed having good health, the diagnosis came as a complete shock. My protocol included weekly chemotherapy, 40+ lumbar punctures, weekly physical therapy, and many oral medications over the course of two and a half years. It was the toughest thing I had ever gone through, but I came out a stronger person because of it all.

It may sound odd, but cancer has been such a blessing to me in so many ways. I’m continually amazed at how much these experiences have shaped me into who I am today. A few blessings in particular stand out to me…
In November 2012 I started a foundation to help the cancer patients at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. I run the foundation from my Facebook page called Emma Rose- A Patient Helping Patients. I collect comfort items for my fellow fighters at Children’s Hospital. Every month when I go in for my clinic visit, I bring about 60+ gift bags for the patients. This is my passion. I love those little kids.


My cancer journey inspired my future career choice.  If you had asked me a week before my diagnosis if I ever wanted to be a nurse, without hesitation, I would have said no. Now, I know without a doubt that I want to be a pediatric oncology nurse. My goal is to work exactly where I am treated now, in the MACC Clinic, and to work alongside the nurses who inspired me and saved my life. I cannot possibly imagine having any other career. I want to dedicate my life to helping children who are suffering from this horrible disease and finding a cure so that no child will ever have to go through what I had to.       

Now, I am three and a half years cancer free and my hair is growing back thick and curly and longer and longer each month. But for the 10 months that I was bald, and the next year as it was starting to grow back, I didn't know what to do with my hair (or lack there of). Losing my hair at 16-years-old was very traumatic and I always felt as if people were staring at me. I bought a wig but rarely wore it as it was itchy and I just didn't feel like myself wearing it. I ended up mostly wearing a pink baseball cap whenever I would go out in public, but it didn't really match my girly style.

One day I came across the Headbands of Hope Facebook page and sent them a message. I told them a little about my story and the work I do for my Children’s Hospital. They immediately mailed me a box of headbands to give to the girls and a few to keep for myself. I fell in LOVE and wore them everyday. From chemo treatments and procedures to the rare occasions I was allowed to go to school, you could always find a Headband of Hope on my head.

After years of Facebook communication, I finally got a message from Jess that she was coming to my hometown and that we were finally going to be able to meet in real life! It was so exciting to see her in person and hand some headbands to the kiddos at my hospital in Milwaukee. Spreading hope together, one headband at a time!"

- Emma

To support Emma and her organization, visit her Facebook page here. 





Jessica Ekstrom
Jessica Ekstrom

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