Seventeen years ago, authors Tom and Vonne Barnett were suddenly confronted with every parent’s worst medical “bolt from the blue”: their only child, 30-month-old Emily, was diagnosed with an advanced – meaning metastasized – pediatric cancer. At the time, the thirty-something couple was living in northern Virginia.
What followed was the defining crisis of their now 25-year union: an intense 20-month battle to keep their first-born alive. About six months into the struggle, Tom started writing a weekly update on Emily’s progress (or lack thereof) for interested parties. Vonne contributed to this blog-like diary, and it was sent out by email, fax and regular mail to several hundred relatives and friends who spontaneously organized themselves into the family’s extended support network. Over time, the couple came to view the updates as something more important: a real-time memoir that would someday prove crucial to Emily’s understanding of how she became whom Tom and Vonne hoped she would become. The family now hails from the Indianapolis area, and besides 19-year-old Emily – the girl who lived, it boasts five additional children: sons Kevin (16) and Jerome (11), an adopted Chinese daughter Vonne Mei (7), and adopted Ethiopian sisters Metsuwat (4) and Abebu (3). Would the Barnetts have achieved such a blended clan absent the early experiences of Emily’s cancer? They can’t ever be sure, even as Tom and Vonne suspect it played a significant role in their subsequent decisions to expand their family in this manner. But yes, that’s perhaps another reason why they wanted to revisit this tumultuous early family chapter at this time. As Vonne now finally gets back to restarting her professional career after all these years, the couple wanted to take this moment to remember how they got here – or how the journey truly began. What you are about to read in this series of eBooks are the original weekly updates as Tom wrote them – with Vonne’s continuous inputs – across all of 1995 and into early 1996, a period encompassing the last 14 months of Emily’s treatment protocol. Those 45 updates constitute Chapters 3 through 9 in the series: Chapter 3, which concludes with the birth of their second child, in included in Volume I, along with two opening chapters that recreate Tom’s discovery of Emily’s cancer and her initial hospitalization; Chapters 4 and 5, which cover the difficult summer of 1995, make up Volume II; Chapters 6 and 7, which chronicle the family’s final push on the chemotherapy, fill out this volume; and Chapters 8 and 9, which encompass the post-treatment diagnostics – and Make-a-Wish trip to Disney World, constitute Volume IV. The authors haven’t made an effort to “improve” the updates from today’s perspective. Tom and Vonne now claim to be wiser on a host of subjects that arise in this family memoir, but a lot of that wisdom stems directly from these experiences, so they felt it made most sense to share them with you, the reader, in this unaltered format. The concluding fifth volume in the series is written from today's perspective, to include that of a grown-up Emily - the girl who lived! If this series of eBooks helps you better understand an analogous past experience or ongoing crisis in your life, then Tom, Vonne and Emily have accomplished what they set out to do by sharing their intense story. Finally, as a reminder regarding where you are in the story: you rejoin events in August of 1995. Emily’s diagnosis occurred in July of 1994 and her treatment continued until late 1995, so the family is nearing the end of the chemotherapy now. Many adventures still wait, but everyone is burning out at this point.