Dad shares message of kindness after a stranger tells his daughter with cancer to walk

Posted at 5:12 PM, Jul 17, 2018

A word many people use to describe Emma is strong. And that's even the name of a Facebook page dedicated to her. Her family says Emma is the one who teaches them every day what it truly means to be strong.

At first glance, you may not see anything different about Emma. "She's like any little girl, she likes all things girly," said Kathryn Gehring, Emma's mother. But at just seven months old she was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor that started behind her right eye and spread to the right side of her brain. 

At the time it took up a third of her brain and has caused her to not be able to walk without the help of a walker. "It was earth-shattering," said Brent Gehring, Emma's father. For the Gehring family. "You take for granted that your children will be healthy and to hear that one of them is not I think is just a really hard thing as a parent to understand and come to grips with," said Kathryn.

Now at 6 years old, this battle isn't new for the family of five; it's an everyday battle for not just Emma but her two brothers Aiden and Easton along with her mom and dad. "It changes your day to day, changes the activities that you get to do with them," said Brent.

Due to Emma's condition, the family makes the trip to Boston every three months to visit with doctors at the children's hospital. And a must stop for a family dinner when they are in town is Union Oyster House. When the family left the restaurant after their latest visit earlier this month Brent carried Emma outside. Which prompted an unusual reaction from a stranger. "He said and I quote what the (expletive) are you doing he goes that's what's wrong with kids, make her walk," Brent said this statement caused mixed emotions to run through his mind. On the one hand, "I never entertained the thought of fighting a man with my daughter in the other arm," said Brent.

But he decided instead to use it as a teachable moment. "and I said well for a matter of fact my daughter can't walk and I'm happy to carry her because she's been carrying my faith and my ability to function for the last 5 years. Her strength has shown me how to do things." 

The exchange sent Brent to take to social media to spread the messageof kindness to everybody. "This is a powerful moment and powerful time to share a story of the right way of doing things," said Brent. Because being kind is something he learned from Emma. "Emma has brought love, strength, and compassion to our family," said Brent, "to think that I would be sitting here five years post-diagnosis and think that this is a gift is crazy."

After that encounter, Brent says he thanks the stranger for his comment because it opened the way for an important learning experience from everyone involved. And just a few days after that trip the family learned that Emma would need to start her seventh round of chemo. But her parents say they know she will be Emma strong.