Five-year-old Emma Crossman and her mother, Malynda Jordahl, are waging a personal battle — with their own, unique style.
Jordahl took Emma to the emergency room at Olmsted Medical Center in March for extreme stomach pain.
Turns out Emma has a rare condition called Wilm's tumors in each of her kidneys. She was transferred to Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys. Nurses at OMC were so touched that they started a "Hope for Emma team" and health providers at Saint Marys, of like mind, began selling T-shirts.
The money is neededfor a few months so Emma and her mom can afford the daily cost of living while Jordahl takes chunks of time away from work to care for Emma.
Jordahl also takes care of her aging parents, who live with her and Emma — especially Emma's grandmother, who's in poor health.
In the early days after her diagnosis, Emma was worried about losing her hair to chemotherapy. So Jordahl decided to shave her own head in support.
Then, Jordahl showed Emma a picture of someone who had gotten a henna scalp tattoo and Emma said, "I wish somebody would do that for me."
So Jordahl did a little investigating and got a henna tattoo on her own scalp.
About three days after Jordahl shaved her head, Emma accepted her hair loss and decided it was time to get her head shaved. And she, too, got a henna tattoo.
It's become important for the pair to surround themselves with the love of others through Facebook/HopeforEmmaCrossman, Discover Magical Moments Daycare(which Emma attends) and Timberland Partners, of Rochester, where Jordahl works when she's able.
The owner of the daycare, who has been through cancer herself, said a spot for Emma will be held open whenever she's able to come home from the hospital, Jordahl said. That has eased her worry about available care for times when Emma is well enough to go home.
"It just been awesome, because it's scary to think of 'OK, now, what am I going to do?'" Jordahl sad. "'Great, I can go back to work, but … I can't do anything with my child.'"
When Emma got her diagnosis and ended up at Saint Marys, Jordahl said, her boss showed up at the hospital carrying information about the Family Medical Leave Act, to help Jordahl take the time away from work. Jordahl's job remains secure, which has also eased some of the worry.
So she's been able to focus on Emma. "She's just amazing," Jordahl said. "It blows my mind away all the time.
"She's going 24/7. She's got a lot of energy," Jordahl said. "She's always pretty happy. She's very friendly, outgoing."
Jordahl signs off on her online posts with "God's Got This," because, she says, they need God's help to make it through the journey.
On days when Emma gets three drugs in chemo, she typically must stay in the hospital to get hydrated.
Emma has learned enough by now that she's able to explain the kidneys' function and where her tumors are, although she might not yet understand the gravity of the situation.
Emma goes for what she calls a "doughnut scan" (a CT scan) on June 9 to measure the decrease in size of her tumors.She and her mom are hoping for surgery in June.
God's got this.
Health reporter Jeff Hansel writes the Pulse on Health column every Monday. Follow him on Twitter @JeffHansel.
How to help
Does Emma's story make you want to help? There's an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast fundraiser scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Sunday at the Eagles Club, 917 15th Ave. S.E. in Rochester. The breakfast includes bacon, sausage, orange juice and coffee for $6.
Half of the proceeds from each ticket go to Hope for Emma, with the entire amount going to Hope for Emma in the case of tickets sold that aren't used. For fundraiser details, visit Emma's Facebook page.