September 19, 2014

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Amherst family battles cancer on many fronts

Little Emily Zichi learned the importance of a simple gift while enduring a deadly disease.

The leukemia that invaded her 7-year-old body a year ago has been fought off with aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, but it was the support she got from those around her that taught her a valuable lesson about life.

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JASON MILLER / CHRONICLE
Emily Zichi, 7, carries a toy.

“When I was in the hospital, it was pretty scary,” Emily said. “I got so many gifts (from friends and family), it made me so happy. I know the other kids might feel the same way if they got something, too.”

Emily’s mother, Laura Zichi, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in October, saw how her daughter’s smile gave her strength, but also how some of the less-fortunate kids being treated at Rainbow Two — as the hospital’s second floor is called — didn’t have the same level of support.

So around Thanksgiving, she decided to send out an e-mail seeking donations of gifts for the children to friends and family members to see what could be gathered.

The e-mail slowly made its way to local groups and schools, and little by little, the floor of the Zichi’s Amherst home began to disappear gift by gift, and packing for “Emily’s Hopeful Holiday” began.

“We probably had a few carloads as more and more people started bringing over gifts,” said Tom Zichi, Emily’s father.

“We decided a couple weeks ago that we had better rent a U-Haul (truck).”

Family, friends and schoolmates from Emily’s second-grade class at St. Joseph School in Amherst arrived at the Zichi’s early Friday morning to help pack the 17-foot-U-Haul, which ended up stuffed.

Books, stuffed animals and other gifts were packaged and labeled with the appropriate gender and age, and carefully stacked to be delivered to the hospital.

While Emily continues to fight, she expects to be done with her outpatient chemotherapy treatments in summer 2009, and is living life like that of an average kid her age, and that of a special “helper” too.

“I feel like an elf,” Emily said, her big smile showing off her missing front teeth. “It feels good.”

Contact Stephen Szucs at 329-7129 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.