At 17 years old, Emma Naughton-Heavey’s only worries should revolve around clothes, makeup and studying for her leaving cert.
Instead, she has spent the last year fighting for her life.
In January of this year, Emma was diagnosed with an extremely rare liver cancer known as Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma. She has since undergone three operations, one in which over half of her liver, all of her gallbladder and 25 lymph nodes were removed.
A native of Oranmore, Co. Galway, Emma has been frequenting New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering for treatment. Her aunt, Rita Naughton, a long time resident of Woodside, Queens, has joined forces with a generous committee and organized a benefit to help assist Emma’s family with the mounting medical bills and cost of travel to and from New York.
All are invited to support the Naughton-Heavey family on Sunday, January 26 starting at 1 p.m. at Maspeth Ale House, 64-14 Grand Avenue in Maspeth, Queens. There will be music throughout the day, as well as spot prizes, raffles and activities for the kids.
The first surgery that Emma underwent last February was the second largest operation ever carried out in St. Vincent’s hospital in Galway. It was a success and the doctors confirmed that the cancer was completely gone.
Feeling better every day, Emma’s health seemed to be improving. Then, in late April, it took a turn for the worse and tests confirmed that the cancer had returned. This time it was in her liver, kidneys and lungs.
Doctors in Ireland encouraged the Naughton-Heavey family to take Emma to New York where she could be better looked after. Memorial Sloan-Kettering, one of the world’s leading cancer hospitals, started treating Emma. While the treatment cleared her kidneys and liver, doctors had to operate in order to remove growths from both of Emma’s lungs.
After they were removed, it was discovered that one of the growths had been related to the Fibrolamellar, but the other was not. Emma had very early stages of lung cancer.
Despite the agony and hardships that she’s faced at such a young age, Emma never complains. Her mother, Pauline, explains that a major component to Emma’s treatment is her unwavering faith. She regularly prays to Padre Pio and visits with Eddie Stone, a local Galway faith healer.
“Her positive attitude is what has kept her going through all of this,” Pauline told the Irish Voice.
In their latest trip to New York, last week, the Naughton-Heavey family received an early Christmas present. Emma got the all clear. She is cancer free.
While this is amazing news, the battle is not over. Emma, the eldest of four children, will still have to travel to New York every few months for scans, as Fibrolamellar has a high recurrence rate.
For now, though, this news is a sigh of relief for a family that has been living life with bated breath. Friends and relatives hope the New Year will bring nothing but joy and light to a family that has faced a year plagued by darkness.
To read more about Emma, follow her progress, or make a donation to her fund, visit www.helpemmabeatitfund.ie.
Raise a glass to Robert Emmet, the Irish rebel leader executed on this day in 1803