Keep life normal.
Shenai Wolfe wanted everything to be normal, just as the doctors told her. There’s nothing normal about having cancer in an 8-year-old, but she didn’t want the acute lymphoblastic leukemia facing her son Emmanuel not to be what defined him.
Football, basketball and wrestling all define Emmanuel. He admires Lamar Jackson, aspires to dominate a court like Kyrie Irving, and can hardly take a break from his pursuit of modeling them.
So when he was diagnosed with cancer, he didn’t. Doctors didn’t allow Emmanuel to play tackle football, so his coach, Joey Montez, created a flag football team – one that won a championship in the first year.
And it was Emmanuel who led the attack.
The start of a three-year journey
Nothing had prepared the Wolfe family for that night.
Emmanuel has always had to deal with bloody noses – many Coloradans know it simply comes with living at a great height. However, this one wouldn’t stop.
A bloody nose turned into bleeding for minutes. Then Emmanuel passed out in front of Shenai and her boyfriend, Benjamin Crowley. He woke up and vomited blood black from lack of oxygen. The attacks began and the family immediately called paramedics.
After being taken to St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center, Emmanuel was transported by Flight for Life to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. All this time he had received between eight and ten liters of blood.
After his stints at St. Mary-Corwin, Memorial, and then Children’s Hospital of Denver, the Wolfe family was diagnosed with cancer.
“It was very difficult to even soak it,” Shenai said. “We all broke down because we had so many questions – we’ve never had anyone (in our family) with cancer. It was something new to us.
‘We had to leave the room to cry so he wouldn’t see us. It was difficult.’
About 5,690 new cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia will be reported by 2021, according to cancer.org. More cases are expected of this in men. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia accounts for about 1% of all cases of the various cancers.
Doctors told Shenai that if Emmanuel were diagnosed with any cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia would be the most treatable.
Most young boy plans range from two to three years of age for remission.
The plan started when Emmanuel was fed a port of port and a regimen of 13 pills a day.
Taking more pills every day than many children will take in a year, Emmanuel didn’t stop. Nor did a gate in his chest.
The whole time he was fighting, Emmanuel also hit the field. Coaches and parents kept a close eye on him to keep an eye on his energy levels, but no one wanted to stop him from supporting his teammates.
“He kept exercising, he didn’t quit,” Shenai said. ‘He would get an epidural maybe once a month. And that’s when they go in his back and test the bone marrow and things, and he was still playing. He never complained.
“He never missed. He went to every game and practice.”
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A new ‘normal’
Emmanuel was blessed with curly, dark locks that many people long for.
As a child, his hair was the only thing more recognizable than his already built-up work ethic and playfulness.
Shenai combed that same hair one day, just weeks after Emmaunel’s battle with cancer, and pulled away a brush, and with it came a patch of hair. Most cancer patients know it will happen, just not when.
She left the room, trying to mask the tears that fell many times during his fight.
Of all the pills, spinal tapes, and other procedures Emmanuel underwent, none broke his heart more than his hair loss. He feared that teammates and classmates would laugh and joke.
Hats and do-rags became his sense of security, especially after a warm welcome to his new accessories.
“He wasn’t his extrovert himself and you’d ask him what was going on and he said, ‘I don’t want to wear this stupid thing,’” Montez said. ‘I said to him,’ I’m fine, buddy. You are sick and it is not your fault. Plus, the do-lap looks really cool. ‘
His teammates and the older kids just told him how cool he looked with the do-lap on. -rag, “and he hugged it.”
At school, Emmanuel was given the opportunity to wear a hat, even though it is largely prohibited.
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When he reached the field, it was a black or red do-lap – the colors of his team, the Pueblo Predators.
As general manager of Dairy Queen, his mother made sure that everything remained as normal as possible. When Shenai felt the urge to give him a baby or slow him down, she remembered what doctors told her: Treat him normally.
But some things are not normal.
One night before training, with Shenai in Colorado Springs treating Emmanuel, her children named Montez.
With the tremendous amount of time and effort it took their mother to care for their sick brother, the family was unable to get to the grocery store.
Montez soon joined the board of the Predators program, and they all came together to pool money to go to the store and provide resources for the family.
“When he was first diagnosed, the Predators (even) paid for his uniform and fees,” Shenai said. “When I went to treatments for Emmanuel, they would pick up my other boys for football and (also) bring them home.”
Upon returning home, Shenai couldn’t help but cry. She deliberately held onto Emmanuel’s diagnosis and fights social media – it’s hard to keep things normal when you’re constantly updating others about his condition and posting it.
The lack of online presence speaks to the family’s attitude. When Shenai’s sister struggled with drug addiction, Shenai adopted all of her children, including Emmanuel.
She has raised six children, with the help of her boyfriend, and she is already used to showing them what it means to sacrifice.
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There are still scars
On March 25, 2021, Emmanuel had his last epidural. The conclusion? He’s in remission. Out came the gate.
The three-year fight was over. And just weeks later, he was allowed to play – no restrictions necessary.
“When he took out his port, I posted it on Facebook,” Shenai said. “We had so many people contact us because they had no idea what we were going through.
‘When they said we were done, it was like’ are you sure? You don’t want to keep him here a little longer? “I was more scared, you know, when I took him off his medicine or that he relapsed into it. ‘
Now Emmanuel’s pills are only available on Saturdays and Sundays, and a smaller handful along with that.
A nosebleed is no longer commonplace for the Wolfe family.
Emmanuel’s younger sister, with visions of her brother passing out and still vomiting blood in her head, screams with most nosebleeds of her own.
When Emmanuel gets them, the family tells him to stop tilting his head back. Swallowing the blood can be too painful, so he squeezes and looks ahead. Every time he is watched like a hawk.
The scars from Emmanuel’s treatment will take a long time to fade. His successful three-year battle with cancer will always be lurking – the chances of recurrence will be higher for the rest of his life.
But he will not flinch.
Even on the field, as others stray from contact, Emmanuel is the first to make contact, even against guys nearly twice his size.
“I was so proud of him,” Shenai said of Emmanuel’s first game. “To see him dive over to take them on, I was a little bit shocked, but he just jumped up and kept going.”
Emmanuel’s impact is not only felt in games. He has changed the culture of an already proud football program.
“We’re really talking about that pack mentality – we take care of each other and we’re a family,” Montez said. “I feel like the culture itself has really changed (thanks to Emmanuel). It’s really nice to know that we really are a family. The boys get along and they all look out for each other.
“It’s amazing to see.”
The curly hair has since returned and the do-rag has left the field. However, Emmanuel never did.
Chieftain reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @lukezahlmann.