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Emma Green and cancer: A scary journey

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When you talk to Emma Green, administrative support assistant at Granville County Sheriff’s Department, you may have known her from childhood, recall having seen her at either CVS, where she worked for 14 years, or being at the sheriff’s department for the past 20 years.

She is outgoing, gracious, friendly and willing to assist citizens and fellow workers. A casual observer would not realize that since July 2018, Emma has been on a scary journey. Can anyone have the nine-month journey she has had and look so well? Emma does.

We all wake each morning never knowing what that day will bring. July 12, 2018 was just such a day when Emma noticed an enlarged knot on her left upper chest. Emma will tell you, she doesn’t wait around, she wants to know and she went to the doctor the next day. That visit resulted in treatment for a possible muscle strain.

On July 14, Emma went to Kings Dominion and the knot became painful. She returned home and on Sunday, July 15, she went to the emergency room. She was directed to her family doctor and on July 18 she was referred to REX Breast Care Center of Raleigh. From there she was sent to Duke Women’s Cancer Care Center, also located in Raleigh.

Very rapidly there was a mammogram, then a biopsy on July 30, and a diagnosis of estrogen-driven breast cancer, stage 3-4. There was another mammogram, MRI, bone scan, CT and echocardiogram. A port to provide for delivery of chemotherapy was surgically implanted on Aug. 9 and on Friday, Aug. 10, Emma had her first chemo treatment followed by 13 more weeks of chemo taken each Friday.

Emma is so positive about her entire experience that you know she does have something special. She is filled with unwavering faith in God, and praise for the circle of coworkers, family, friends and church family who were her support group. These individuals drove her to each treatment in Raleigh. By scheduling her treatment on Fridays she was able to use the weekend to rest and regain her strength, which included her spiritual strength renewal at church on Sundays. Emma’s closest caregivers were her daughter, Shenna, and her 6-year-old grandson, MiSean, who always assured her that his kiss would make her better.

When asked what was the most painful, Emma described the port as being “bothersome,” until it healed. Most people use a stronger term for such description. Her treatment went well and in November 2018 an MRI showed no tumors but a shadow where the largest tumor had been. Emma told people then that she felt she had been healed. The two worst chemo sessions were the last two. Emma did not want to take them because she felt they were unnecessary because she believed she was already healed.

Emma reports that she was very sick, had nausea and she believes that was an experience she was meant to have to know what many patients go through, often beginning with the first session. She states if all the treatments had been that bad, she does not know if she could have taken it.

In December when the doctors were going to implant radioactive seeds to mark the location of the tumors for future observation, they could not find any signs of the cancer. They had to use the older MRI and make measurements to mark the location. In January 2019 Emma had the involved lymph nodes removed, followed by 28 sessions of radiation at Maria Parham Hospital, which were completed on April 17.

She was the first patient each day, had her treatment and arrived at work by 9 a.m.

You will see a variety of bracelets on Emma’s right arm. There is a word on each one, and they reflect Emma’s growth during her cancer experience. Emma is a woman of faith, she has learned valuable life lessons and she shares those with others when she shares her experience. She will tell you that her faith has deepened and her faith has brought her through the last nine months.

The lessons reflected by the words on her bracelets: believe ­— all things have worked for her good; strength ­— trust God for strength, he has given her what she needs; dream ­— dream of a closer walk, be transformed and restored, including adjusting to the changes in her body, a “new” Emma; pride — proud that she has completed a journey without giving up; and confidence ­— not afraid, confident of the new Emma with new hair, new nails, new scars and not afraid to live.

Emma’s rules for your interaction with cancer patients: don’t tell cancer patients about the experience of others; when visiting or calling be aware of the patient’s energy level and don’t overstay your visit or prolong your call; don’t share your problems; bring fluids as a gift and make a drink for the patient, hydration is very important, Ginger ale or soups are great; do small chores for the patient while visiting, clean the bathroom, change the bed sheets, discover what they really need.

Emma Green, friend to many, Granville County native, has been a caregiver and seen family and friends have their experience with the Big C. She is a daily reminder to all of us that cancer is frightening but it’s important to be an active part of your treatment. Yes, when you come through the experience you are a new person. You are not defined by cancer but defined by your growth and the new person you have become. Part of Emma’s new things is watching her diet, cutting down on processed foods, particularly meat, and lowering her intake of sugar.

Another reminder that prevention is the best way to beat cancer — watch what you put in your body.