Party offers break from cancer fight

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 12, 2008

Emily Barber, who turned 4 on Thursday, is in the fight of herlife as she battles stage four neuroblastoma, a form of cancer thataffects the nerve development of some infants and youngchildren.

For that reason, her friends and teachers at Easthaven BaptistChurch, where she has been in day care every since she was 8 weeksold, decided she needed to take a break from all the fighting andhave some cake.

“She’s been here since she was just a few weeks old, and whenyou see someone every day, you get used to having them there,” saidday-care director Kathy Watts. “We’ve missed her and we’ve prayedfor her, and we sort of threw this together so she would know welove her.”

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The party was attended by Emily’s friends and family and about50 children from the day care, and in lieu of gifts, they broughtbooks to be donated to the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children.Watts said the books will all have stickers identifying them asdonated by the children of Easthaven in honor of Emily.

Emily’s mother said the party was a real treat for Emily, who iswaiting for a stem cell transplant on Sept. 22.

“We just finished her last round of chemotherapy,” said MichelleBarber, adding that the church has been quite a support for theirfamily in their time of struggle.

Watts said ever since Emily got sick, the church family has donewhat they could to make sure the Barbers are taken care of.

“We’ve had several benefits,” said Watts, who said one of thosewas selling around 900 T-shirts, with the proceeds going to theBarbers for Emily’s cure. “It’s funny to walk around town and seehow many you see. They’re all over the state.”

Michelle Barber said the care and support shown to her family bythe people of the church, especially the day care, has been a greatcomfort to them.

“They’ve done fundraisers and they’re keeping up with usconstantly,” she said. “Some of the teachers have even come up tosee us at the hospital.”

One of Emily’s classmates came to see her one day when he wasreceiving treatment at Blair E. Batson as well, Michelle Barbersaid. She said she and her husband “Tex” Barber are just gratefulfor everyone who has shown their support throughout Emily’streatment.

Watts said it’s been interesting to watch the children’sunderstanding of Emily’s sickness, and their complete acceptanceand love for her at a stage where a lot of grownups don’t even knowhow to react.

“They do understand,” she said. “Even with Emily losing herhair, none have even asked too many questions about that.”

Watts said one of Emily’s young friends had seen a picture ofher before the treatments started and said, “That’s the way I wantEmily’s hair to look again. But it’s coming back.”

Meanwhile, Watts said, Michelle Barber sends out batch textmessages and updates an online journal about how Emily’s treatmentsare coming, and the class does what they can: throw parties andpray – not only for Emily, but for Michelle and Tex as well.

“We do pray for her in class,” Watts said. “And they need it,because this is Michelle’s full-time job.”