In the Summer of 1979, after giving birth to her third child, Emma Whatley had complications in surgery at Warner Brown Hospital in El Dorado, Arkansas 71730. Physicians at this hospital had the opinion that there was no hope for Emma’s survival. It was then that a family friend, Myrtle Pace, advised Emma’s husband Willie Whatley that if she continued in the Warner Brown Hospital that she would not survive. Willie Whatley then contacted family friend, Floyd Davis, to go with him to take take Emma down to St. Luke’s Episcopal Cancer Center Hospital in Houston, Texas – Floyd Davis being very familiar with driving in Houston.
Upon arrival, her sister, Corinthia Jackson, and cousin Patricia met her at the emergency door. Emma was shaking profusely. Her sister thought she was cold and asked for blankets. However, as Emma was being pushed down the hall on the gurney Dr. George Reul and explained that Emma was in shock and that was the reason for the trembling. Emma’s sister and cousin quickly began removing Emma’s hairpins and rings from her fingers. It was then that Dr. George Reul immediately cut a hole in the side of Emma’s neck. Green liquid began spurting out of the hole like a fountain, as peritonitis had set in. This was done to divert the poison from going to her brain. Emma needed surgery right away. However, because peritonitis had set in throughout her body and her blood count was too low, she was not able to have surgery at that time. Emma was placed in a room to rest and for the poison to continue draining out of her system. After days in the hospital clearing out poison from her system, Emma was released so that she could gain strength and a higher blood count.
Her oldest sister, Lillie Brown, who lived in Hearn, Texas took her in nursing her back to health. Lillie took Emma off of everything white – no white rice, sugar, flour, salt etc. Lillie juiced her mason jars of carrot juice, spinach juice. She would collect overripe mangoes, papayas that were going to be thrown away from Brookshire Brothers, and bring them home to juice. Blackstrap molasses was also given to Emma to help raise her blood count. Two months later in much better health with clear skin, clear nails, longer hair, higher blood count Emma returned to St. Luke Episcopal Cancer Center in Houston, Texas ready for surgery.
Dr. Denton A. Cooley and Dr. George Reul together operated on Emma while Dr. Norman Frankel assisted, gastroenterological surgeon. Although Dr. Denton A. Cooley was a world-renowned heart surgeon and Dr. George Reul was a heart surgeon on his team this arrangement was decided upon by Dr. Denton A. Cooley as Dr. George Reul put it “cardiologists have the fastest hands.” Fast hands were required to ensure that Emma survived and the surgery was a success.
Now, 37 ½ years later I, the now adult baby that Emma gave birth to that July 1979, write you both of my mom’s story of survival and her continued endurance and positive influence on the lives of others.
In fact, in the Summer of 2011 Emma discovered a discharge of blood from one of her nipples. She then was referred to surgeon Dr. Debbie Youngelman with Community Care Physicians. A breast biopsy was done and the test came back positive for breast cancer. Thankfully, the cancer was found in the earliest stage of 0, wherein the cancer was still encased in a sack and had not broken through to infect other breast tissue. A mastectomy was done on the one breast. However, there was a chance that the cancer would return in the other breast. Therefore, Emma elected to have a mastectomy done on the other breast to prevent that from happening.
It is now my privilege as her daughter to care for my mother, making sure that she lives the best life she can. For the past 10 years, I have been caring from afar. Now, my mother needs an in-home caregiver and I am arranging matters so that I may be able to move up to Saratoga Springs, New York where my mother lives to provide the in-home care that she needs. She continues to exude a strong, positive influence on me, the rest of the family and friends.
It is an honor to share her story with others who are fighting this terrible disease and give a positive outlook and show that survival is an absolute possibility, but not just survival – a life well-lived.