PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Emily MacGillivray treated her home like an obstacle course. The toddler, a tornado of energy, could be found after a scooter sitting on some counters.
“We never had a kid who was constantly climbing on things,” said Mountain MacGillivray, her father and La Salle women’s basketball coach.
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Around Thanksgiving, Emily was pale and her energy sagged. The family were only mildly concerned for the 2-year-old; Grace MacGillivray wrote on her blog that she told her husband he didn’t even need to go to the ER for routine tests.
“Once we got to the ER, cancer never crossed my mind,” she wrote. “Our pediatrician had told me to pack a toothbrush and a change of clothes, pretty sure we would have to stay the night. I did, but thought we’d be home the next day, maybe with antibiotics, but probably just a prescription for an iron supplement.
At first, doctors thought Emily might have serious liver problems, until blood tests revealed she had leukemia. Emily was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a fast-growing and most common type of childhood cancer.
“We were pretty scared and alarmed,” Mountain said. “The hours before we got the diagnosis was just the worst, not knowing what you’re going to hear.”
MacGillivray graduated from Temple, coached Philadelphia High Schools and led Quinnipiac to the NCAA Tournament before being hired at La Salle in April 2018. He may coach his most interesting game on Sunday when the Explorers dedicate the game to Emily – now in remission – in a “Climb with Emily” day to raise awareness of childhood cancer.
The MacGillivrays, who are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary this year, have eight children, ages 19 to 2.
The youngest, Emily.
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Photos dotting MacGillivray’s Twitter feed show her daughter smiling as she holds an egg sandwich Where about to fall asleep after eating an adult serving of mac and cheese. The fact that Emily was in the hospital during those times makes the family grateful that they can share Sunday’s game.
The MacGillivrays learned this week that Emily was in remission, making Sunday’s event more cause for celebration than dismay.
“Since coming off chemo since Saturday, Emily has really shown an improvement in her overall well-being,” Grace wrote on her blog. “She follows the children more, she laughs, smiles and talks a lot more, and eats more like a toddler!”
Mountain MacGillivray said her daughter needed about eight more months of chemotherapy and then “our hope for her is that she won’t even know she has leukemia at the age of 10”. Emily came home on December 29 from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and MacGillivray laughed when he noted that she had become a champion in taking her medication.
“The one thing about 2-year-olds, and this is a lesson for all of us, is that they tend to live in the moment. They don’t really worry about the future,” Mountain said.
MacGillivray’s Twitter biography notes that he is a “follower of Christ” and said the ordeal only strengthened his faith because of the outpouring of support from friends, family and friends. strangers who prayed for them, prepared meals and donated money. La Salle and MacGillivray are trying to raise money Sunday for the B+ Foundation — which honors the life of Andrew McDonough, who died of cancer at age 14 — in its mission to fight childhood cancer. La Salle will show videos of some players talking about how cancer has affected their lives.
La Salle will be wearing special t-shirts for Emily and photos of her will be on display during the game against Richmond.
“Yeah, it could be really bad for Emily down the road,” Mountain said. “Anything can go wrong. But right now, Emily is as happy as a clam. I’m not going to worry about what could go wrong because I see her smiling and laughing every day.
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