Cristian Rivera Foundation

Beyond the Tumor: Staying Positive and Keeping Hope

Emily Hood was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) in February of 2019.  As a junior in high school and being only 17 years old at the time, this was a shocking diagnosis.  Where most people would have reacted with anger or bitterness, Emily described feeling calm.  She said she was ready and didn’t panic.  As someone who had previously suffered from anxiety and a fear of not being in control, this situation brought a new perspective. During treatment, spending time with friends and family, and all other parts of life, Emily chooses positivity and optimism above everything else.

Emily is the youngest of 4 siblings and was an avid wrestler and swimmer in high school. After her diagnosis, learning became more difficult due to the side effects of treatment.  Despite what Emily referred to as “chemo brain”, she completed her junior and senior year online and graduated in 2020! Emily now enjoys spending time watching Netflix and Disney +.  She is currently wrapped up in the crime and drama of “Criminal Minds”.  Like many young people living through a pandemic, Emily also loves Tik Tok and the entertaining videos you can find there. The Hood family loves to play board games and watch Disney + shows together.

Emily has been through a variety of treatments for her tumor.  She started with radiation and chemotherapy following a biopsy.  Remarkably, the radiation helped to shrink the tumor by 50%! Now, Emily is participating in a clinical trial with Car-T Cells in her home city at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  When Emily was undergoing a procedure earlier in her diagnosis, she asked her oncologist to get matching Croc tattoos with her.  Though he did not agree to the tattoo, he happily obliged in buying a pair to match her.  They now share a love of crocs and themed jibbitz together!

With all of these treatments and the weight of a DIPG diagnosis, Emily chose to join a support group.  Her group consists of 5 or 6 young adults who all have blood or brain cancers.  She has developed close relationships with everyone and highly recommends that anyone fighting cancer considers joining a similar program. Support is an important part of this journey.  Emily suggested that the best way to support a loved one with DIPG is to “Show that you care 24/7”.  She explained that when she was first diagnosed, she received a ton of letters and well wishes, but now that she has been battling DIPG for 2 years, she receives these messages less often.  Emily expressed that it’s really important to show that you care about someone all the time, not just when something big is happening. A consistent support system can make a big difference!

Emily wanted people to know that living with a brain tumor doesn’t make her much different from other people. She mentioned that when she was first diagnosed, “People always asked me how different I feel now, but the symptoms came on slowly, so I didn’t really feel different.” Emily said that a lot of people assumed that when she was diagnosed, she would immediately start to feel very sick.  Instead, she said, “We feel relatively normal, but we don’t know any other normal”. 

Emily has hope and big plans for the future. She is tackling this disease one day at a time and says, “I don’t see a reason to not have hope, and that is a reason for me to have hope”. This incredible young lady is making every day count and plans to go to school to become a pastor. Her positivity and light are contagious and we can’t wait to see what the future holds! We will be checking in with Emily in a few weeks to see how her treatment is going and to get a life update. Full Steam Ahead, Emily.

By Grace Ison

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