Skip to content

Emanuel’s Story

Age: 20

Diagnosis: Ewing Sarcoma

Favorite Things: nature and photography

Meet Emanuel, a twenty-year-old survivor with a huge heart and a soft spot for his nine nieces and nephews. As a reserved guy within a large family, he enjoys escaping into the peace and quiet he finds in nature and most recently dabbling with photography. Emanuel has also found his place in the low-rider community, where members rebuild beat-up, old cars and embellish them with murals that tell a story. He admires the artistic expression in this craft and hopes to one day refurbish and paint his own.

Emanuel’s 7.5-year journey with cancer began in the fall of 2016 when twelve-year-old Emanuel noticed a small growth on his right shoulder. Initially dismissed as a pimple by his mom, Veronica, it soon grew rapidly eventually reaching the size of a softball. Despite his pediatrician’s initial reassurance of it being a benign lipoma, Veronica felt uneasy. The growth felt warm to the touch and had developed veins. Something was simply not right. After a second opinion, Emanuel was referred to a dermatologist at Children’s Wisconsin who ordered an immediate MRI. As soon as the scan was complete, the dermatologist pulled Veronica aside out of Emanuel’s earshot. Veronica remembers little from this conversation other than the words, “This is cancer,” and the sinking feeling that life would never be the same.

Emanuel was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a type of cancer that grows in the bones and the soft tissue around the bones. Emanuel immediately began chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, falling into a rhythm of a constant back and forth between home and the hospital- a few days inpatient, a few days out, inpatient again, back and forth, back and forth. After months of this, the tumor was small enough for surgical removal. Once the tumor was removed, Emanuel went through several more rounds of chemotherapy. But, after a full year of treatment, he was grateful to officially be cancer-free.

Eighteen months post-treatment, in 2019, fifteen-year-old Emanuel was scheduled to undergo a routine scan accompanied by his oldest sister. That morning, while at work, Veronica was filled with a flood of emotions and asked her coworkers to say a prayer- she had a maternal gut feeling that, though Emanuel had been clear for months, these results would not be good. Her premonition proved crushingly true- the cancer had returned, this time in his lungs and ribs.

After undergoing surgical removal of a portion of his lower lung and receiving radiation therapy on his ribs, Emanuel endured another grueling round of chemotherapy to prepare for an autologous stem cell transplant. Following the transplant, he spent forty-five days recovering in the hospital, during which he battled a fierce case of mucositis requiring a pain pump for any kind of relief. Additionally, he developed a whole-body rash and breathing difficulties due to a drug reaction which landed him in the ICU treatment with oxygen support for several days. Despite these and so many other hurdles, the transplant was deemed successful, and his family was hopeful that Emanuel’s journey with cancer was complete.

But, two years post-transplant, eighteen-year-old Emanuel noticed a marble-sized bump near his belly button. They decided to keep an eye on it and dismissed it when it began shrinking. However, two months later, the bump started growing again. They consulted with his oncologist who opted to remove it for a biopsy as a precautionary measure. When the final test results came back, it was confirmed that Emanuel was once again battling Ewing Sarcoma for a third time. His cancer had travelled across his body- from his shoulder to his lungs and ribs and now resided in his umbilical area. After the tumor was removed, Emanuel underwent three months of radiation on the affected area.

This time an adult, Emanuel gained the autonomy to make decisions in his care. Presented with chemotherapy options, he chose to receive oral chemo at home for a full year. Though he initially dealt with several side effects from the chemo, he was grateful for the freedom of being out of the hospital and the newfound agency to make his own decisions. In February of 2024, a weight lifted off Emanuel’s shoulders as he took his final chemotherapy pill. Done with chemo, done with side effects, done with the long-term organ damage he knew was happening within his body, and ready to live his life on his terms. Since then, Emanuel has enjoyed finally having the energy to pursue his passions. He has even served as a volunteer for Gamerosity, delivering care packages to children in treatment.

Cancer robbed Emanuel of far too many experiences many teens take for granted, and it has been difficult for him to imagine his life beyond the cancer experience. But when he allows himself to consider his future, he wonders at the possibility of pursuing an automative degree or continuing to explore his interest in photography. Emanuel is one to reflect and contemplate; but when he finds his path forward, one thing is for certain, he will do great things.

For now, Emanuel is taking his time to thoughtfully wrap up this phase of his life dominated by cancer. He chose to privately ring the bell—symbolizing the end of treatment—in his home, surrounded by his big family, on Easter weekend 2024, a courageous step of hope towards a brighter future.

Thank you for supporting research. Thank you for giving hope.

Copyright protected work of the MACC Fund. May not be used or distributed on behalf of any other organization or commercial purpose without MACC Fund’s explicit consent.

Back To Top