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Inspired By: Glastonbury's Elizabeth Emory

Diagnosed With Cancer While Pregnant, She and Her Husband Now Host an Annual Blood Drive

Like any first-time mom, Elizabeth Emory wasn’t alarmed when she started feeling ill during her first trimester in early 2021. 

“I didn’t really know what to expect, I was very sick with morning sickness and I was just kind of getting over that when I had this onset of strange symptoms, like back pain," says Elizabeth, a cardiac RN for Middlesex Hospital. "Over a two-week period, I was in an immense amount of pain and I went to the ER a couple of times and they thought maybe it was my sciatica.”

But after a CAT-scan and then an MRI, the tests showed something far worse: a tumor in her abdomen. At a time when she should have been reveling in the joys of her first pregnancy, Elizabeth instead got the devastating diagnosis that she had a Stage 4 rare blood cancer called Burkitt’s Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. 

The diagnosis meant that Elizabeth would spend the remainder of her pregnancy in and out of hospitals, undergoing intensive chemotherapy and blood transfusions. Every 21 days she underwent week-long hospital inpatient treatments. Doctors had to design a special chemotherapy mixture that would kill the cancer cells in Elizabeth’s blood, while protecting her baby from the toxic chemicals. 

At 36 weeks doctors induced her and her daughter, Hannah, was born, “happy and healthy,” Elizabeth says. “Luckily all of the chemotherapy drugs that I needed don’t pass through the placenta so none of them affected Hannah.”

Shortly after, she had to return to the hospital for two more intense chemotherapy treatments that she couldn’t undergo while she was pregnant. 

Because the cancer was in her blood, part of her treatment plan included several blood transfusions. 

“This was at some of the worst times of Covid and blood was so scarce you really had to be in a dire situation to even get it,” says Tim Emory, Elizabeth’s husband. 

“The American Red Cross was just coming back from Covid and many Covid patients needed transfusions as part of their treatment,” says Elizabeth. “So the national supply of blood was critically low. And it wasn’t just me who needed the blood, it was the baby, too.” 

Her medical team was able to qualify Elizabeth to get all of the blood she needed. In June of 2021, doctors declared her cancer-free and she has remained so since then. This June she and Tim will celebrate Elizabeth’s second year of being cancer free.

The life-saving blood Elizabeth got during her treatment, she and Tim say, made them keenly aware of how important it is to donate blood and it’s why the couple now works with the American Red Cross to raise awareness of blood donating. 

“I was trying to think of a way to make something good out of an overall terrible thing that had happened so I thought it would be a great opportunity to host a blood drive,” Elizabeth says. “I now know the power of blood donations.”

“Sitting there first hand and seeing her get a blood transfusion, seeing that go into her body and knowing that she needed that blood to live, it put a face to what the impact of blood donating is,” Tim adds. “I know first-hand how impactful that is.”

Tim, a commercial treasury officer for Bank of America,  and Elizabeth have lived here since 2014, and now host an annual blood drive in town each June. During the blood drive the couple hosted last year they collected 54 units of blood.  The next drive will be June 22, at the Irish American Home Society, 132 Commerce St. 

There will be 79 donation appointments available, but the couple stresses that there are many other places to donate blood in the region at any given time and anyone wishing to do so can visit RedCross.org. 

“We feel very strongly about getting people to donate at any blood drive, not just our drive,” Elizabeth says. 

“We want to promote awareness and get people donating,” Tim adds. “There’s plenty of opportunity, even just here in Glastonbury.”

  • Tim, Elizabeth and Hannah Emory.
  • Tim, Elizabeth and Hannah Emory.
  • Elizabeth Emory during one of her inpatient chemotherapy treatments.
  • Tim Emory with his daughter, Hannah
  • Lifesaver gifts bag at one of the Emorys' blood drives.
  • A homecoming held for Elizabeth Emory