"I was standing in the bathroom, blow-drying my hair, my mom had pointed out a nodule about the size of a golf ball, on the side of my neck," said Emily.
Scans and tests showed Emily had a malignant tumor on her thyroid.
That's the gland at the base of the throat which produces hormones vital for growth and bone health.
Dr. Andrew Bauer of Children's Hospital says thyroid cancer is fairly rare, but Emily was in the prime risk group.
"Caucasian girls between 15 and 19 have the highest incidence of thyroid cancer," continued Dr. Bauer.
Kids who've had previous cancers like leukemia, or lymphoma run a higher risk.
And some research shows kids who've had a lot of radiation exposure from diagnostic tests may be more vulnerable to it.
Often, as in Emily's case, the tumors can seem to appear out of the blue.
Surgery is the primary treatment.
"I had the entire thyroid gland removed, 2 parathyroid glands, and 48 lymph nodes," said Emily.
Thyroid surgery can be a delicate operation.
Dr. Bauer added, " Behind the thyroid gland are nerves that supply our vocal chords, and there are 4 glands that help control the calcium.
Doctors sometimes follow up with radioactive iodine therapy, to kill remaining cells.
With her treatment done, Emily is focused on getting her nursing degree, so she can help others facing cancer.
"I would be able to look at a patient and say, hey, I can relate to you," stated Emily.
Dr. Bauer says researchers are still trying to understand what causes thyroid cancer.
But with a 95% survival rate, they also want to make sure patients like Emily have a good quality of life for the many years they have ahead.