This Life with Gracie: Young mother loses battle with cancer but her memory lives on

Sometime in the fall of 2016, during yet another hospital visit, an ultrasound revealed Emily Moore’s pancreas was inflamed, she had spots on her liver and it was as if her appendix had disappeared altogether.

Doctors weren’t worried. It was common among women who’d used contraception to have spots on the liver, but Emily hadn’t taken contraception in eight years.

If only it had been that long since her last hospital visit. She’d been to the emergency room so often she and husband Kurt had lost count.

On Tuesday, I told you about Emily’s indomitable spirit and the struggle to pinpoint what might be happening inside of her.

Now for better or worse, it finally looked like doctors were on to something beyond chronic ulcerative colitis, the disease of the large intestine that had plagued her for much of her life.

But what?

RELATED | Nothing could stop this Dunwoody girl

By Halloween, they had a name for what was going on. Emily, just 34 with a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old, had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Or so they thought.

A second doctor at Johns Hopkins told them the cancer was in Emily’s appendix, an extremely rare disease, affecting an estimated 600 to 1,000 Americans each year.

Chemo treatments were started immediately. Surgeons removed half of her liver, a third of her colon and her appendix and gall bladder. Friends created a account so Emily could share her progress. They arranged around-the-clock meal delivery, and they helped with her children, Hallie and Jordan, transporting them to school, to soccer, to gymnastics.

RELATED | How dying taught Cobb attorney what it meant to live life fully

One friend even managed her household. Her chemo treatments and follow-ups were scheduled so that she was never alone.

As Emily kept them in the loop, they offered words of encouragement via text, email and snail mail.

She wasn’t giving up, but Emily suggested Kurt prepare for life without her. She named the women she thought he should marry, who would be a good mother to Jordan and Hallie. She made him promise to raise them in the Jewish faith, to stay away from the “crazies.”

Kurt refused to have that conversation.

Beginning in March 2016, Emily was in the hospital 18 days but recovered. Before they could start treatment a second time, the cancer was back in the liver again. They finished chemo and decided to get another opinion. This time from MD Anderson in Houston, a trip paid for by close friends.

Doctors there not only found cancer in Emily’s liver, it had now spread to her lungs, bones and abdomen. Emily enrolled in a clinical trial but got progressively worse. Doctors suggested she go into palliative care, but folks there suggested hospice.

“I was freaking out,” Kurt remembered. “She looked at me and said you need to relax. You’re going to have a new life soon.”

A week later on March 23, Emily, just 35, passed away with her younger brother and best friend David at her side.

“She waited until I left the house,” said Kurt, no longer able to hold the tears.

On March 24, some 800 people packed Congregation Beth Shalom to celebrate Emily’s short life.

Joel Gross, her stepfather, said he’d never seen anything like it.

“Sometimes it is hard to gauge the impact one individual can have on people, but in Emily’s case, I was and continue to be overwhelmed by the support shown by her friends for the 18 months that she struggled with cancer and for the 15 months since she passed away,” he said.

Days later on Kurt’s 36th birthday, the family was sitting shiva. The house overflowed with family and friends observing the ancient Jewish custom that surrounds the bereaved with the living so they will not dwell on the dead.

RELATED | A wife’s vow to her dying husband

To date, friends have contributed more than $70,000 to an education fund for Jordan and Hallie. One group of camp friends donated nearly $15,000 to create a facility for campers in her memory at Emily’s beloved Camp Barney Medintz, where she spent summers as a child and teenager.

She called camp her happy place. It was where she formed lasting friendships and where she could be herself.

“The person I am at camp is the person I want to be every day of my life,” she once said.

Yes, camp, her mother, Loli Gross, said, “was the love of her life.”

Emily was dumbfounded by the outpouring of love she received while sick, but she shouldn’t have been. She was simply reaping the love and care she’d sown into so many others.

Looks like she will be for a long time to come.

After her death, some friends bought tickets to see the Indigo Girls and took Emily’s mom and daughter backstage to meet them. They were one of Emily’s favorite singing groups.

Also in her memory, another $40,000 was donated to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation raised during a Halloween children’s fair last October. Plans are underway for another fundraiser on Oct. 20.

In the 15 months since she slipped away from him, Kurt Moore, their son and daughter have never been alone. And they never will be.

Suffice it to say, Kurt and one of the women Emily suggested are now an item. Just another seed Emily Moore planted along her way back to the earth. It’s anyone’s guess what will become of it.

Find Gracie on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at 


Emily’s Trick or Treat for a Cure

3-6 p.m. Oct. 20. $10 per child, $25 per family. 4575 N. Shallowford Road, Dunwoody.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Living

Appalachian speed-hiker celebrated in movie
Appalachian speed-hiker celebrated in movie

Ultramarathoner Karl Meltzer, who speed-hiked the Appalachian Trail with the help of beer and bacon, is celebrated in a new movie, “Karl Meltzer: Made to be Broken.” Available for free, and streaming on Netflix, the movie follows the ups and downs of Melter’s ridiculously fast jaunt from Maine to Georgia, which he completed in ...
Nancy Sinatra Sr., first wife of Frank Sinatra, dead at 101
Nancy Sinatra Sr., first wife of Frank Sinatra, dead at 101

Nancy Sinatra Sr., the first of entertainer Frank Sinatra’s four wives and mother of their three children, died Friday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 101. >> Read more trending news  Her death was announced on Twitter by her daughter Nancy, who tweeted “My mother passed away peacefully tonight at the...
These small steps can produce big results to your health
These small steps can produce big results to your health

To be sure, great healthcare is a big part of keeping citizens fit. Yet each of us individually has a big part to play as well. As health care moves from go-see-the-doctor-when-you’re-sick mode to I-want-to-feel-as-good-as-I can-every-day model, we have some work to do. No matter where we live, say experts, a few simple steps can reap big rewards...
Ditching the doctor? What to know about home health tests
Ditching the doctor? What to know about home health tests

Medical tests save lives. Discovering diseases before they become more serious can mean the difference between life and death. But many Americans say they don’t have time to see a doctor, live too far from a medical facility or are so uncomfortable with examinations that they avoid tests altogether. These challenges have created a demand for...
‘Brother Moochie” an ambitious, uneven look at prison system and race.
‘Brother Moochie” an ambitious, uneven look at prison system and race.

Our heroes don’t have to die for us to lose them. When Issac Bailey was 9, his beloved brother Herbert Lee Bailey, known as Moochie, killed a man. Moochie stabbed poor James Bunch two dozen times during a botched robbery in the man’s own home. Moochie, an African-American, was 22 and high as a box kite at the time. The victim was a white...
More Stories