Re-entering the World with a Smile

Amy Daniels
6 min readAug 12, 2021

How the seemingly weakest are the most heroic

Emily. Image by Amy Daniels.

She gets out of the cab with my help. Her aide already unbuckled her seatbelt. I grab her book bag, she swings her right leg, clunky with a hard plastic AFO on it, and her left leg swiftly follows. I’m distressed because her teacher had texted saying Emily was teary most of the day. This was after the text to let me know Emily complained of a stomach-ache and didn’t want to use the wheelchair during PE.

“Hi sweetie,” I say with a soft smile and concerned eyes, staring into her big blue eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses sitting crooked on her nose.

“Hi!” she cheerfully said with a wide smile. I wasn’t surprised. She always greeted me like this. With glee. All the time. Even after a day spent uncomfortable, both physically (with a stomach-ache) and emotionally (made to sit in a wheelchair).

I put my hand out for her to hold onto as she gets out of the cab. With a bit of struggle, she does. I shut the door and Emily and I, still holding hands, walk into the house to get an after-school snack.

She is nineteen years old now. She’s had close to twenty surgeries, eight of them on her brain to treat a tumor that wouldn’t quit growing. Her first brain surgery was when she was seven months old. Her last brain surgery was when she almost eight years old. She suffered a massive stroke during that surgery.

It was that last brain surgery that jolted us to the core. Emily had overcome so much until that point. Years of chemotherapy, non-conventional treatments, and radiation therapy. But that last surgery….

She had walked into the hospital that fateful fall day, chatting with me about her friends and asking if we could get McDonald’s after she was done with the hospital. Of course, I had replied. That was our routine. After particularly long or hard doctor visits, we went to McDonald’s.

But I didn’t keep my promise.

Two months later she came home from the hospital. We didn’t get McDonald’s. Instead, we came straight home where her dad lifted her out of the car and placed her on the old Barcalounger in our family room. Emily didn’t remind me to stop and get French fries.



Amy Daniels

Writer, mom of two, one who had disabilities and complex medical issues due to a brain tumor. Memoir, Reaching For Normal, is available where books are sold.