How one family found hope through their battle with cervical cancer, and miscarriages to get 2 miracle babies

 “There’s no heartbeat.” These three words are a mother’s worst nightmare. To hear these words means that the baby they were so excited about is no longer. Regardless of when they hear it, it doesn’t make it any easier. For women who have suffered a loss in any form, getting their rainbow after the storm is one of the greatest miracles. Chris and Stefani McKinney got to witness this miracle firsthand at the birth of their daughter Emily Kate who was born after the loss of 2 separate pregnancies, 1 single pregnancy, and triplets.

Emily-Kate with Mom and Dad Photo Credit Reflections by Luna

There are not many words more devastating than “there’s no heartbeat.” But at just 16 months little old Rainbow Emily-Kate was diagnosed with an advanced form of Neuroblastoma Cancer. Not only that, but her mom Stefani, is also a Cancer survivor who was able to have children after ¾ of her cervix was removed at a young age due to cervical cancer.

Chris and Stefanie met at college through mutual friends and hit it off quickly. “Just before graduation we found out I was pregnant,” she said. “Which was highly unlikely I was told after a surgery to remove most of my cervix due to cancerous cells found during an annual pap.” When she was younger, Stefani went for a routine pap smear, and they found abnormal cells in her cervix. They removed about ¾ of her cervix to get rid of the cancerous cells and the tests since then have been clean. However, they told her that her chances of getting pregnant/maintaining the pregnancy were slim. When she found out she was pregnant with Maddie she was super excited. This was miracle baby #1.

A study done on cervical carcinoma rates among young females in the United States, found in the National Library of Medicine in 2012 showed that of the women with reported cases of cervical cancer, “21% were diagnosed in women 20-29 years of age, and 1% was diagnosed in women younger than age 20 years.” Stefani was one of the 1% of women diagnosed under the age of 20.  You can read more information on cervical cancer in the America Cancer Society’s article “Key statistics for Cervical cancer

Stefani and Chris were hoping to have more children after they had Maddie. Now that they knew that they could get pregnant, they started trying for a second child.

After over a year of trying for our second, I finally got a positive test. I went to my appointment alone- repeating it would be nothing exciting over and over to my husband. After maybe a minute of the ultrasound, the tech looked at me and said three simple words “there’s no heartbeat” she explained. “Three simple words that completely flipped my world upside down. They shuffled me into a room and the nicest NP came in and held my hand. She called my husband to tell him to get there quickly. She continued to tell me how everything was going to be ok, that nothing was my fault, and how heartbroken she was for my family. Her simple gestures that day will forever stay with me.”

After surgery and more months of trying… we got another positive test!!!! This time we both went to my first appointment. It was a different ultrasound tech this time. She said excitedly “okay!!! Here’s sac A, and there’s sac B, oh and sac C.” We were thrilled. She repeated the pictures of the sacs. My husband stopped her and said, “excuse me are there THREE?” She smiled.” yes! Did you not know it was triplets?” said Stefani. “We both almost passed out. We went directly to the doctor’s actual office, confused. He told us it was too early, and we would have to come back for another ultrasound.” They were so excited to have triplets. 

A few weeks later we got the same three words, this time, for three babies at once. ‘There’s no heartbeats’ Another surgery. After some healing, we decided we were meant to be a family of five (our daughter and two dogs)” said Stefani.

After her recovery, they began trying again. She soon got another positive pregnancy test however this time her feelings were mixed about the pregnancy and her anxieties were high.

“I cried. After the trauma and piling medical bills from two surgeries, I was terrified.  I went in for blood work so they could monitor my levels ASAP. I was put on multiple prescriptions to try to help everything. A few weeks later, I went in for an ultrasound. I went alone, prepared for the worst. ‘There you go, mama. A healthy 136 beats per minute.’ I asked her to listen to that tiny heartbeat so many times. 8 months later we had a healthy, glowing little girl,” said Stefani.

What’s even harder is that her big sister Maddie must go through it too. She has to watch her little sister go through something neither of them should ever have to experience. Maddie was young when her mom went through the first two losses and didn’t understand but when her mom was pregnant with Emily-Kate she understood more of what was going on.  

Maddie and Emily-Kate Photo Credit Reflections by Luna

When her mom first announced the last pregnancy, she said, “Mommy. Can we hope this one doesn’t die? It makes me sad and being at the hospital for you is boring.” Even at the young age of 5/6, she understood that there was a chance that the baby might not survive. It is so hard on the siblings. One thing that isn’t talked about is how much it affects the siblings. 

Stefani says “tell them the truth and allow them to process healthily.  Get them, someone, to talk to if they need it. Talk to them openly. BE SAD WITH THEM. So much of loss is this weird “strong for your kids” thing. But that is crap. Your kids deserve to see emotion, to see how to process, and to understand that feelings are a good thing.”

Her favorite part of the pregnancy was the moment she was born. She suffered from Cholestasis which caused liver failure during her pregnancy making it very high risk. She delivered Emily Kate at 37 weeks. 

Cholestasis is a severe health condition that can occur in late pregnancy. This liver disease only occurs during pregnancy and the cause is unknown, but it can cause many complications. According to the article “Cholestasis of Pregnancy” on, “intrahepatic Cholestasis of pregnancy is a condition in which the normal flow of bile is affected by the increased amounts of  pregnancy hormones…it occurs in 1 out of 1000 pregnancies.”  

Stefani suffered from the effects of this late in her pregnancy including liver failure and several other physical and mental/emotional discomforts. She said “I suffered bad anxiety. I also had terrible symptoms- diabetes, constant discomfort, and then struggled with a rare issue causing liver failure.” The entire pregnancy was hard- mentally and physically. However, she was able to deliver a healthy baby girl at 37 weeks.

One of the things that Stefani said when it came to dealing with the loss of her babies was “it’s ok to celebrate early. A week before I found out about our first loss, I took my oldest on a girl’s trip to Disney. We took all the big sisters to reveal photos with different colored Disney balloons, ordered special shirts, and for a long time I was so mad at myself for it. I should’ve known better than to celebrate so early. But I cherish those pictures and memories. It’s ok to celebrate and it’s even more ok to mourn.”

There are not many words out there besides “there is no heartbeat” that can be just as world-shattering, but this family had to hear another set of words that would change the course of their life with their rainbow, Emily Kate. 

A short 16 months later, we got three more words. this time more earth-shattering than the first… “she has cancer” Stefani explained. Emily was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic neuroblastoma at just 16 months old. She has been receiving chemotherapy to help shrink the tumor in hopes that it can be removed. 

Emily-Kate 20 months old Photo Credit Reflections by Luna

“She has cycle 8 of round 2 this week (End of May 2022) followed by scans the next week to remeasure her tumor to see what round 3 will be (depends on if the tumor had responded better to the round 2 or 1 medicines) or if she will be able to have surgery to remove her tumor,” Stefani said. The tumor is attached to her carotid artery which makes it very hard to operate on. 

On June 6th, Emily Kate had follow-up scans done to see how effective the two rounds of chemotherapy had been. Unfortunately, neither round of chemotherapy has been effective on her form of cancer so far and she will have to go for another round of chemotherapy.

 If you would like to help the family with expenses and such from fighting cancer, please check out the link below. There is also a link to Emily Kate’s and Maddie’s wish lists.

There are three types of Stage 4 neuroblastoma. Low risk, intermediate-risk, and high-risk neuroblastoma. According to Neuroblastoma- Childhood statistics on, “for children with low-risk neuroblastoma, the 5-year survival rate is higher than 95%.  For children with intermediate-risk neuroblastoma, the 5-year survival rate is between 90% and 95%. For children with high-risk neuroblastoma, the 5-year survival rate is 50%.” Based on these statistics Emily Kate has a pretty good chance of survival but the battle she has ahead of her is not something any 20-month-old child should go through. 

This family has gone through several storms now. Beginning with Cervical cancer with the mom, 4 losses followed by a very high-risk pregnancy and ending with battling childhood cancer. The losses may or may not have been caused by the surgery Stefani had to remove 3/4 of her cervix and get rid of cancer. The fact that she has any children right now is a miracle by itself. Emily-Kate is a precious little girl and the sunshine in her mom’s soul.

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