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Dealing with leukemia difficult for three-year-old and family

Greg Vandermeulen
Emmalee Chubaty pictured at her uncle s wedding where she was a flower girl in mid-August. Although she was not yet diagnosed, it was after her fall, and cancerous cells were present in her body.

Emmalee Chubaty pictured at her uncle s wedding where she was a flower girl in mid-August. Although she was not yet diagnosed, it was after her fall, and cancerous cells were present in her body.

It's a battle no one should be asked to fight. But at the age of three, taking on cancer seems like an insurmountable task.

Not even a month from first diagnosis to present, three-year-old Emmalee Chubaty has undergone more medical treatments than many people do in a lifetime.

Diagnosed on Sept. 30 with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Chubaty has been on a rough road toward recovery.

As Ridgeville area farmers and parents Wayne and Shari try to adjust to their new reality, Emmalee is in the fight of her life.

On Oct. 26, Shari Chubaty talked about how far her daughter had come. "She's responding the way they hoped she'd respond," Shari said.

Because her ability to fight infection is compromised, Emmalee hasn't been able to go home until now. "They've given us the green light," Shari said.

Because of Emmalee's fragile immune system, renovations had to be hurriedly completed on the home, including ripping out the carpets, having the ducts and the entire furnace system inspected and cleaned.

Shari said doctors told them they could not engage in renovations anytime soon, once their daughter's home.

"It has to be done now or not for three years," she said.

Changes to their farm house are the least of their worries for the last few weeks.

With Emmalee, her troubles began in early August when she fell off her bed. "That kick-started her pain," Shari said. "She didn't want to walk after that."

They took her to the doctor and was told there was nothing wrong and that she was faking.

Two weeks later they brought her to a different doctor who thought she had possibly sprained her ankle.

Emmalee started walking again shortly after, but that only lasted a week.

Shari said they brought her to Altona where the doctor expressed concern for her paleness. "Her lips were white," Shari recalled.

Blood work was done, and that's when the Chubaty family's lives changed.

"Before I got back to my car, (the doctor) told me to take her to Winnipeg for a blood transfusion."

Just how serious her condition actually was, became apparent quickly, as instead of feeling better, Emmalee felt much worse.

"She had minor heart failure because her body wasn't used to white blood cells and oxygen," she said.

That day in Winnipeg will never be forgotten. As Emmalee had various tests, Shari said they received the news. "By 3:30 p.m. there was an oncologist in the room telling me she had cancer," she said.

Although she wasn't allowed to jump on the bed, Shari said that action, and the subsequent fall, may have saved her life.

"The oncologists had told us that her fall was the best thing that could have happened to her, that if she hadn't shown those signs of pain prompting us to persue things further, she would have lasted until December, and that we could have easily lost her with how low her counts were," she said.

Since then she has had five bone marrow aspirations, a spinal tap and chemotherapy. A control line has been put in her chest for chemotherapy.

And the formerly friendly and outgoing little girl is now afraid of everyone.

Shari described it as horrific, saying Emmalee doesn't know why all this is happening.

"She started to say no more," Shari said. "She started telling me she would stop doing bad things if I made the pokey things stop."

"She won't speak to people anymore," Shari added. "She was my social butterfly."

Her physical appearance has also changed. Her hair is cut short, (to help prepare her for hair loss), her face is puffy, and she has gone up four sizes in clothes thanks to steroids and chemo for one month. "She doesn't look at all like the same little girl," she said.

Emmalee had a word for people she thought of as heroes. To her they were all "superman".

"I call her my superman," she said.

But Shari and Wayne also have a one-year-old son, who is being looked after by friends during all of this.

Shari said there has also been a trust fund set up at Scotia Bank in Emerson, and D.D.'s Country Kitchen held a fundraising breakfast on Oct. 30.

Not from the area (she grew up in Regina but Wayne is local), Shari said she is stunned by the support.

"It's been incredible, absolutely unreal," she said.

Although at first they greeted news of the trust fund with mixed feelings, Shari said they have come to appreciate what has been done.

"You don't think that would ever be something we need," she said.

Shari said they are thankful that Emmalee has made it through the first part of treatment and are optimistic for her recovery, since the type of leukemia she has is the most curable.

But she recognizes the next three years are going to be tough ones. "It's going to be really hard for a long time," she said.