Emely keeps on dancing

This Hemby hero goes toe-to-toe with cancer


Emely Varela Salvador is an energetic, little girl of five-and-a-half years old. She likes to dress up, sing and dance. The music doesn’t matter so much since Emely likes all kinds: Latin music, Bruno Mars and the “Spider-Man” soundtrack. If it has a rhythm, Emely is on the move. And for her mother, Fermina Salvador, Emely is a joy to be around.

“Lately, she’s been getting into this idea that she’ll be a TikTok-er, but we won’t go there yet,” Fermina joked. “She’s just a joyful, playful kid.”

What’s remarkable about Emely isn’t just her ability to dance to anything – it’s her ability to keep enjoying life in spite of all obstacles in her way. Since the fall of 2018, she has shown bravery and determination in the face of her greatest challenge yet.

It was around Thanksgiving. Emely was in pain and she’d started losing weight. A couple weeks later, she was feeling worse, pale and having trouble eating.

Her parents took her to an urgent care, but unfortunately, the urgent care couldn’t help. Emely was so dehydrated they couldn’t even test her blood. The urgent care tried to get Emely admitted to a hospital, but had trouble finding a facility.

“We stayed there all night because they couldn’t find a hospital that would take us in,” Fermina said. “The next day, they said, ‘Novant Health will take you,’”

That morning, Emely was admitted to Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital for testing, and Novant Health team members got to work. Within hours, the results were in: Emely had acute lymphoid leukemia. Right away, our team connected Emely with Novant Health pediatric hematology and oncology.

For more than two years, Emely has undergone treatment. Today, she receives chemotherapy every Friday and has periodic check-ups at Hemby Children’s Hospital, where nurses make sure Emely is happy and healthy. Each visit, Emely has been greeted with love.

“Every time, the nurses would remember Emely, and that was a great feeling since Emely felt like she wasn’t at the hospital,” Fermina said. “I remember we were there for Halloween. Emely was so excited because she could wear a princess dress. Everyone at the hospital was dressed up, so she didn’t miss that part of being home.”

Since beginning her chemotherapy, Emely has been feeling better. She has bad days, but she bounces back quickly. She’s scheduled to complete her treatment in July. In the meantime, Emely enjoys her visits to Hemby. Even after two years, she’s always excited to see the nurses, and she has a beautiful collection of toys she’s received from the hospital.

Emely’s family has also felt at home at the hospital. They’ve been able to enjoy family meals provided by Claire’s Army, a local program that supports pediatric cancer patients and their families.

“Everybody does an amazing job to keep these children going, to make them forget they’re sick and help them enjoy the time,” Fermina said. There are also some things parents don’t have to worry about. The pediatric oncology’s standard of care makes sure the family does not receive any bill.

Today, Emely is growing even more energetic. She enjoys playing with a new dog she got for her birthday, and, most of all, she keeps finding reasons to dance – one beat at a time.

“Some days are good,” Fermina said. “Some days are not. But being able to enjoy the time with her is amazing.”

With your help, we can continue providing inspiring children like Emely with remarkable care.

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