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.
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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 caringbridge.com 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.
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.
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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.
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. emilyshalloweenparty.com.