A short overview of Praying for Emily

Posted by Tom Whitehead

When Emily was diagnosed with leukemia in May 2010, Kari started writing a blog on CaringBridge. She started writing mainly to keep our family and friends updated about Emily—but soon we had thousands of people following her journey and getting messages, positive thoughts, and prayers from around the world. When Emily relapsed in October 2011, we also started the Facebook page Prayers for Emily (Emma) Whitehead to better connect with and update Emily’s followers.

Praying for Emily is told from my point of view, and some of Kari’s journal entries from CaringBridge and Facebook are included as well. Emily’s part in the book was to write the afterword and describe what her life has been like after cancer. In the afterword, she describes what she remembers during the time she was sick and her experiences over the past eight years. Emily also explains why she briefly wanted to be called Emma for awhile during the time she was treated. We never knew why she wanted to change her name until we read her afterword! In some of the first stories published about Emily receiving CAR-T cell therapy, she is even referred to as Emma.

We could not have created this book without the help of Danelle Morton. Danelle is a talented writer and journalist, and we were thrilled when she agreed to collaborate with us on the book. We worked with Danelle for almost two years, and with her guidance and incredible ability to bring a story to life, we finally have the book we have been talking about creating!

We are also deeply grateful to Ken Burns for writing the foreword of our book. We first met Ken when he included Emily in his PBS documentary Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, which is based on the book of the same name by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Ken provided me with the encouragement I needed to write about our story and include a part of our story that has not been told before—something I call my whispers. We will talk more about this part of our story over the next weeks, and of course it’s described in detail in the book.

We look forward to sharing more with you over the coming weeks!

~ Tom

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