Stacy Ayers: “The Real Hero Is My Child”

Emily Ayers was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) at the age of 7 in 2016. After beating cancer, Emily was connected with the V Foundation and was one of Dick Vitale’s All-Courageous Team at the Dick Vitale Gala. Stacy, Emily’s mom, recently shared her perspective of Emily’s story with the V Foundation.

As the mother of five kids, Stacy Ayers wants to be there for them, care for them and protect them while they grow up. However, she has lived through situations that no mother wants to experience.

Stacy and the Ayers family were hit hard when her youngest daughter, Emily, was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome and then Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) days before her eighth birthday.

“Emily has always been a very special person,” Stacy said. “She was the one that was able to take everything in and process it. Since the day she was born, we have always believed she was like an angel to us. She is a good kid and brings out the best in our family.”

Emily spent 35 days in the hospital at Duke University, roughly a 10-hour drive from her home in Daytona Beach, Florida. Throughout her stay, her parents had the schedule worked out like a science, and Stacy spent every night in the hospital with Emily.

It was painful for Stacy, as a mother, to watch Emily go through her battle. She could offer comfort and support but couldn’t fix the problem. She felt helpless.

“As a mom, every single day I wanted to take that pain away,” Stacy said. “I would trade places with her in a heartbeat. But you can’t. That’s the hardest thing.”

When Emily was diagnosed with cancer, her parents made a vow to her that they would always tell her the truth. It was a hard promise to make, but Stacy and her husband showed the strength to keep it, even when the future was unknown.

Emily received a bone marrow transplant and made a tremendous turnaround. With her DNA, the best bone marrow transplant match was her sister, Kendall. One daughter donating bone marrow for the other’s treatment was a heart-wrenching experience.

“I was just so proud of Kendall to be able to do that and giving that up for Emily,” Stacy said. “That was a tough day.”

Emily will turn 15 years old in June. She’s calm, passionate, shy and thankful. Things don’t bother Emily the way they bother other people. There are some lasting scars of the rough patches she went through, but there are brighter days ahead.

Emily’s dad showed her Jim Valvano’s EPSYS speech while she was undergoing treatment. Her immediate response was a desire to help others when she finished her battle. Thus, a few years after, the Emstrong Foundation was born. Through this, Emily fundraises and donates to the V Foundation and funds the Steps to Recovery program at Duke. She’s making a difference in the lives of people who are going through similar battles.

“It’s amazing,” Stacy continued. “She is the one that guides our family in the right ways, yet she is the one who had the horrible process and journey that she had to go through. She’s not bitter, she’s not angry. She helps me be a better mother. If she can go through that, then I have no excuse.”

Stacy and the Ayers family have been through things they never imagined. She would not have chosen this path and hopes no parent goes through what her family did, but she is thankful for where they are now.

And while all moms are superheroes, Emily is our hero, too.

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