- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2001

Emily Kim sits on her living room floor sorting invitations to her seventh birthday party next month. The cards are green with pictures of Barbie dolls on the front. Inside, the guest's name, the time and date are written in pencil in Emily's own exaggerated hand.
But as Emily puts the Barbie invitations next to their corresponding envelopes, her mother reminds her to add a note before the invitations are sent: The children who attend the party must be completely healthy, and the party may be canceled at any time.
That's because Emily is battling leukemia, for the second time.
In April, doctors told the Rockville girl's family she would need a bone-marrow transplant to make it through July. The family waits, but life is going on.
"She's very optimistic. She talks a lot about when she's 10 and has long hair and goes to parties," said Kathleen Kim, Emily's mother. "Despite everything, I rarely hear a complaint from her."
Emily is in her second battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She was first diagnosed with the disease at age 3 and endured 21/2 years of chemotherapy before the disease went into remission.
She was given an 85 percent shot at a full recovery, but in April she suffered a relapse. The cancer attacked her central nervous system. Emily responded to chemotherapy, and within 30 days the cancer again went into remission.
Mrs. Kim, 33, an adviser for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and her husband, John, 35, a pharmacist with the National Naval Medical Center, know that without continuing chemotherapy, the cancer will return. But the radiation is ravaging their daughter's body.
Emily takes pills every day and goes to the hospital for spinal taps once a week to check the progress of the treatment. There are frequent injections, and she has a permanent catheter implanted in her chest to deliver medicine directly to her heart.
The side effects of the chemotherapy are taking their toll as well. Emily's hair, full to her shoulders in May, has thinned considerably. Often the smell of food makes her sick. Twice in June she had to make late-night trips to the emergency room.
"The hardest part is just the stress of all this, and the waiting, and the fact that there are no guarantees," Mrs. Kim says. "It just wears you down."
Without a bone-marrow transplant, the outlook remains grim. The odds of finding a donor outside the family are 100,000 to 1, and Emily's brother, Jack, born just 10 weeks ago, proved to be incompatible. A series of donor drives in April and May proved fruitless.
Doctors have found a near-match to Emily's bone-marrow type in the National Bone Marrow Registry. Since she has responded so well to therapy, they are holding off on a transplant, hoping they can find a closer match as results come in from Korea and Japan. A perfect match offers only a 40 percent to 45 percent cure rate.
Mrs. Kim is aware of the odds and has become practiced at telling Emily's story. She mixes medical terms with metaphors and pauses strategically so that Emily doesn't hear everything.
"Sometimes knowing a lot is not good for you," she says.
If Emily does have the transplant, it means 60 to 100 days of isolation in a hospital room to protect her weakened immune system. Mrs. Kim already has decided she will stay in the hospital with Emily, but her daughter won't be able to see Jack.
On most days, Emily bounces around the living room, polite and playful, like any 6-year-old going on 7. For Emily, the future is the birthday party.

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