by Web on September 28, 2017
In September, Millsaps College first-year student Emily Hines joined members of her sorority, Delta Delta Delta, in distributing gold ribbons to students on campus.
The ribbons signify childhood cancer awareness, a subject Hines knows well from firsthand experience. Her one year anniversary of being cancer free coincided with when she began her first year at Millsaps.
“I was in treatment the majority of my senior year in high school,” said Hines, who is from Ponchatoula, La.
She was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia and treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. She was the first pediatric patient to undergo an eight-month clinical trial that combined short-term chemotherapy with arsenic administered intravenously, reducing her treatment by more than two years.
The treatment has been used in adult leukemia patients for more than 15 years, said Hines, who is an advocate for additional childhood cancer research and for childhood cancer survivors.
Hines serves as one of five ambassadors for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants. The name, St. Baldrick’s, is a play on the word “bald,” recognizing individuals who shave their heads to raise funds and show solidarity with children who typically lose their hair during cancer treatment.
“The first event for St. Baldrick’s was in 2000 and since then there have been more than 490,000 heads shaved,” said Hines. “Since 2005, St. Baldrick’s has granted $230-million to support new research in childhood cancer treatment.”
Hines shared her story last May in Washington, D.C. with some members of the Louisiana congressional delegation and lobbied for passage of the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access and Research (STAR) Act during Childhood Cancer Action Day.
One in 285 children in the U.S.A. will be diagnosed with cancer by age 20, with age 6 being the average age of diagnosis, she said. More than 95 percent of adults who have childhood cancer will have chronic health problems as a result of treatment as children, she said.
“I say cancer doesn’t end with your last day of chemo,” she said. “There is a lifelong battle, and we started it at incredibly young ages.”
In November, she will speak at an event in Austin, Texas, to raise funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. “I’ve traveled to California, to Dallas and to Nashville on behalf of St. Jude,” she said, noting that her sorority is a philanthropic partner of the hospital and the short-time housing facility there is named Tri Delta Place.
Hines hopes to organize a fundraising event for St. Baldrick’s on campus and to volunteer at Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital.
Before her diagnosis of cancer, Hines thought she might attend a large state university, but she changed her mind after treatment.
“I decided I needed a small campus, a place where my professors would know my name and my story,” she said, noting that she still suffers side effects from treatment — painful peripheral neuropathy among them.
Hines plans to major in political science, earn a minor in non-profits and go into politics.
“I always say that cancer gave me more than it took away from me,” she said. “I’ve found my passion. Nothing brings me greater joy than being an advocate for childhood cancer survivors.”