It was like any other day for Emma Mertens. She had been playing with friends in the snow, wrestling with her brothers and just being a 7-year-old kid.
But the next day, a Sunday, the Wisconsin girl told her parents she had a headache and started exhibiting flu-like symptoms. When she didn’t get better, she was taken to the doctor to be looked at. By Wednesday, she was undergoing surgery to reduce swelling in the brain.
“We were greeted by an enormous team of experts and a CT scan showed the tumor was blocking flow of her spinal fluid causing it to pool at the top of her brain. She had some swelling as well. She was rushed to the OR to put in a drain,” her mother, Tammy Mertens, wrote on Emma’s Caring Bridge page.
Now, the little girl is fighting for her life. She was diagnosed with a very rare and inoperable brain tumor called DIPG. Sadly, only 10 percent of children with DIPG survive for 2 years after diagnosis, and less than 1 percent survive 5 years.
As her family celebrates each day with their little girl, dog parents from all over the world also have a role in her happiness.
For Emma, a huge dog lover, our four-legged friends have provided her comfort while she continues to seek treatment, including surgeries and radiation. While local pups have visited her, including therapy dog McNugget from the Ronald McDonald House, word has also spread across social media about the little girl’s plight and her love of pups. Now, dog parents from all over the world are sending her letters on behalf of their pups, providing an outpouring of support.
Hi Emma! This sweet girl is my dog, Reagan. We are both wishing you the very best in your fight. Praying for comfort and healing, Emma!
Hello, my name is Bou and I’m 8 years old! I like to travel and have even been on airplanes! If I could, I would travel to visit you. And I’d give lots of kisses! I hear you need to see the doctors a lot. I need to take medicine every day and go to the vet a lot. I bet you are braver than me, the vet makes me nervous. Even if you get scared, though, that’s ok. Because you have many people to take care of you, and your family loves you. And I hope the messages from me and these other dog pals help you feel better!
Hi Emma My name is Myla, I’m a German Shepherd from Indiana. I heard about what you’re going through. It takes a lot of strength to go through what you’re going through and I think you’re very brave. I aspire to be as brave as you. Keep on fighting and don’t let the bad guys (cancer) win!
Hi Sweet Emma! My name is Ramasus and I am 10 years old and live in Washington state. I know what it is like to be sick and I hope you feel better very soon! I will be thinking of you and praying for you! Stay strong! Puppy kisses to you Emma! Love, Ramasus
Hi Emma! My name is Zeus and I am 15 months old. I want you to know that I am praying for you! All of us doggies are! I am a big goofball and such a silly pup! Sending you a big sloppy dog kiss! xoxo
To date, the Mertens have received letters from nearly every state, along with countries all over the world, including Venezuela, England, Australia, Germany and Italy.
“Many pictures of puppies really made her laugh or smile. Thank you to everyone who is trying to put a smile on her face, we appreciate the gesture,” the father, Geoff, wrote on the Caring Bridge page.
Because of all the letters, the family has started a Facebook page for people to make sharing easier. They also have an address where people can send letter: Emma Mertens, PO Box 230, Hartland, WI 53029
“This 7 year old is so amazing, we must beat this,” says her dad. “Please keep praying for Emma and all who have cancer.”