High school junior chooses homeschooling to help care for paralyzed mother with two types of breast cancer

Jennifer Burkholder's daughter, Emma
Emma Burkholder, right, has chosen to be homeschooled for her junior year to help her mother, Jennifer Burkholder, center, through cancer treatment. (Photo: Jennifer Burkholder via Facebook)

For many 16-year-olds in America, junior year of high school is filled with the promise of a driver’s license, junior prom, and spending as much time as possible with friends between school and extracurriculars before carving a path towards college. But instead of joining her friends at her local high school, Michigan teenager Emma Burkholder has opted to be homeschooled so she can help her mother, Jennifer.

Jennifer Burkholder, 42, was paralyzed from the waist down after a car accident when she was 18. In July, the mother of three was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and invasive ductal carcinoma. According to WWTV/WWUP-TV, her chemotherapy is causing her to require more wheelchair assistance.

“Being in a wheelchair makes it a lot more difficult,” Kevin Burkholder, Jennifer’s husband, told the outlet. “She has to dress herself, get on and off the bed and go to the bathroom, and with being weak from chemo and stuff it’s really hard.”

But thanks to Emma’s selfless decision to stay home to care for her mother, her father can continue to work to help pay for medical bills.

“They found that she had two different types of cancer, being inflammatory breast cancer and invasive ductal carcinoma, and it had spread to her lymph nodes to her body but not to her organs yet,” Kevin Burkholder, an Army veteran, explained, adding that knowing Emma would be home with his wife offered him peace of mind.

“I know that if something were to happen, I know what to do, whereas a nurse or something may not know the specifics of my mom,” says Emma. “I would gladly give up this little part of my life to help my mom.”

Jennifer’s white blood cell count dipped on Friday and she was admitted to the hospital. But on Monday, she let her Facebook friends know that she was “going in for battle gear” after she arrived at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Chicago.

Friends of the Burkholder family have started a Facebook fundraising page to help pay for treatment and travel costs.

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