A GIFT OF INSPIRATION
The Emily Whitehead Foundation (EWF) is a nonprofit company organized by Tom and Kari Whitehead on behalf of the treatment that their daughter, Emily, received in 2012. Emily is the first pediatric patient to receive CAR T-cell therapy. The foundation’s purpose is to raise money and awareness for childhood cancers and cancer research. I was first diagnosed with children’s Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2010. Facing more relapses and less options, I began to research T-cell therapy. Emily has been my hero for nearly three years – since I first watched her T-cell story in the YouTube video, Fire with Fire, by Ross Kauffman. Her story has kept me inspired and has given me the courage to keep fighting for T-cell therapy and awareness.
During my struggle to gain access to CAR T-cell therapy at The University of Pennsylvania, I faced several problems that included:
- Disqualification from the study
- Discouragement and loss of hope
- Loss of travel funds
I first reached out to Tom in July 2016, in an effort to obtain guidance from an expert in patient care and advocacy with T-cell therapy. Although I qualified for the CAR T-cell trial in April 2016, I experienced a relapse in the central nervous system (CNS) which immediately disqualified me from the study. After six years of battling ALL coupled with another relapse, I began to lose hope. I chose to reach out to the EWF, because I knew Tom and Kari Whitehead would have a great deal of knowledge and experience in T-cell therapy and patient advocacy.
- Reliable source of contact
- Patient advocacy
- Assistance with travel arrangements
SHARING AND CARING
In early August, I explained to Tom that I no longer qualified for the trial, and that I was tired of fighting. I stopped all treatments and a Stanford pallative care team had given me three to five weeks to live. Tom told me not to give up and said that things would fall into place. He assured me that he and the EWF would continue to help get me out to Philadelphia for treatment. His words eased my fears and frustration. He helped me regain focus and get back on track in my efforts. The EWF community added me to prayer lists, while Tom made dozens of phone calls in an attempt to get me out to Philadelphia. Tom advocated on my behalf, stood up for my rights, and encouraged me to reach out to others who once faced similar situations.
After a trip back to Stanford per Tom’s recommendation, doctors confirmed a miracle – my blood looked normal and my spinal resutls showed no leukemia cells in the CNS. At this point I had not received chemotherapy or blood transfusions for several weeks, so it is very unusual that my labs would look so good. This meant that I qualified for the T-cell therapy trial. Tom immediately put me in contact with someone who quickly arranged flights for me and a friend.
- Received T-cells
- Cancer free
- Future advocate
I am most grateful to the Whiteheads for coming into my life during my time of need. The EWF community restored the hope I once lost and they showed me what it was like to believe all over again. The Whiteheads were instrumental in getting me out to Philadelphia for the CAR T-cell treatment. The EWF’s community had a major impact throughout my CAR T-cell journey at The University of Pennsylvania. If not for them, I would not have received my treatment.
ABOUT THE EWF
The EWF has created a vast community – connecting patients, parents, fighters, survivors, and supporters who help patients and families involved with T-cell therapy. The foundation has a team of individuals who have come together to help inspire and create a brighter future for children, patients, and families.
SUPPORT FOR OTHERS
The EWF offers an array of services that can benefit patients and families who need help with:
- T-cell therapy information
- Sharing experiences
- Community support
- Patient advocacy
- Cancer research
HOW TO HELP
The Emily Whitehead Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for T-cell related therapy. You can help by participating in a fundraising event or by donating. For more information, you can visit the EWF’s website:
See T-cells in action!
Follow Nicole and other patients journeys: