Born On November 25, 1997, in a humble town called Pitkin, located in southeast Louisiana, with only 455 people. Emily Hardisty was from a large, loving family; this meant never ending holiday gatherings, cousins who were best friends, and Aunt and Uncles who were more like Moms and Dads.
Her family and friends described her as courageous, family oriented, dependable, loyal and loved sports; spending countless days hunting and fishing with her family. She was always outside doing something. She loved to laugh, she always had a smile on her face, and loved pranking people. If she was having a bad day, you would never know. She was a born leader. You never had to tell her what to do, she always took initiative. From getting matching turtle tattoos with her friends to joining the Air Force, she was always down for an adventure. As her friends and family have said, she was the adventure.
While in school, five years prior to graduating, Emily played softball, basketball, ran for cross country and track. She helped win two state runner up titles and state championships for her cross country team. For track and field, she was named District Outstanding runner. She also won various “Defense and Hustle” awards in Basketball. She loved to compete.
After graduating in 2016 from Pitkin High School, Emily worked different jobs until finally joining the Air Force in 2019. She was excited about starting her Military career in Vehicle Maintenance. She never complained, and always did her job. She had great pride in everything she did.
She went from different installations like Port Hueneme to Whitehead Air Force Base then finally to her last duty station, Eielson Air Force Base. That’s when her medical nightmare started.
Here is a timeline of what happened to Emily Hardisty
February 9, 2021, Emily visited the 354th Medical Group (Military Medical Clinic). She had an appointment with Dr. Frederick Petric where he conducted a simple urine analysis. He cleared her and said she was “good to go”. It was later found that the urine analysis did contain mature cancer cells that she wasn’t notified about.
February 10, 2021, Emily reports to sick call. She couldn’t breathe very well. Medical told her she had COVID. She tested negative. She was still told to go home and treat symptoms. Later that day, around 2:30pm, she called medical back and said she still couldn’t breathe. She was begging for help. Even though she had a negative COVID test, medical told her to isolate and treat symptoms. By that night, around 6:30pm, Emily called her best friend, Ssgt Hunter Hollman to take her to the emergency room. Dr. Susan Tate noticed she had a mass growing on the side of her neck that was diagnosed as “acute tonsillitis”. She was given IV fluids and antibiotics, then released.
February 17, 2021, Emily had a yearly STD test that was cleared. But another test came back with readings of abnormal cells. Her tests and symptoms, Emily said, should have given her an early diagnosis of cancer. Everything was ignored by all Military healthcare providers at Eielson Air Force Base.
April 20, 2021, Emily was set to go to King Salmon, Alaska for training when she received a red cross message that her brother was in the hospital in critical condition. He had a near fatal accident that left him disfigured, and needed multiple surgeries. She immediately left for home to be by his hospital bedside. Emily was still sick during this time. She was able to be with him for a short time before returning back to duty. Her brother did eventually recover from his injuries but lost his right eye.
July 8, 2021, Emily reported to sick call, again. She still didn’t feel well, her health was deteriorating. Her Master Sergeant at the time pulled her from sick call to do a PT test that she failed. By this time, Emily describes excruciating pain radiating up through her body and vomiting blood.
July 9, 2021, Emily reports to sick call, again. She was barely able to function and was in extreme pain. Dr Patell noticed Emily’s abdomen was “distended”. Five months after her symptoms first started, the Doctor finally orders a CT scan. She went to Bassett Army Hospital in Fort Wainwright, Alaska. After the scan, she was told to wait because something “wasn’t right”. After waiting two hours, Dr Sheridan told Emily that she had a 10lb tumor growing off her left ovary and was possibly cancer. Emily was still trying to process what happened to her brother.
July 20, 2021, Emily is at Alaska Regional Care Center in Anchorage, Alaska awaiting surgery to remove the tumor. On July 18, her pathology revealed a failing liver and she shouldn’t have had surgery. The Doctors still operated on Emily, further endangering her life. They removed her left ovary, fallopian tube, and appendix.
August 23, 2021, Emily received her Staff Sergeant rank, but the rank was revoked due to her getting out of the Military. Emily held onto her Staff Sergeant rank certificate with pride.
Following surgery, Emily was given chemotherapy to help remove any more tumors. She was told she recovered from cancer, and the tumors were removed.
November 2022, Emily noticed symptoms again. This was about the time she made a series of three TikToks detailing her cancer journey. She criticized the Military Health care providers for blatantly and willingly dismissing her symptoms and ignoring labs that reflected an early cancer diagnosis, that might have possibly saved her life. She was almost given a dishonorable discharge but that was revoked. She ended up getting an honorable discharge and was able to keep her benefits.
December 12, 2022. Due to all the stress her cancer journey caused, the misdiagnosis, feeling sick for months on end and her brothers near fatal accident; Emily reached a breaking point. The Alaska District attorney was building a case against her for speaking up about her condition, and for expressing concern that the Doctor would hurt someone else. The Military wanted to prosecute her. She ended up going to the Chris Kyle Patriots Hospital in Anchorage Alaska, a Military Psychiatric unit where she stayed until March 3, 2023.
February 9, 2023, Emily was told she had a mass growing on her remaining ovary. She was given two weeks to live. She decided to go home and spend time with family. She exceeded that time by five months.
May 4, 2023, Emily Hardisty officially retired from the United States Air Force.
Emily Hardisty’s post-service life
Emily spent her remaining time reconnecting with her friends and family. She updated her condition on her TikTok and Facebook accounts, gaining thousands of followers and supporters. She used her platforms to speak up about her experience and talked about Military Medical Malpractice. Those that knew her best have said that Emily was never afraid to speak up about any type of injustice or wrongdoing. She was always the first to stand up for what was right.
At 25 years old, Senior Airmen Emily Hardisty of the United States Air Force passed away on July 21, 2023. Two years, five months and 11 days since her symptoms first started. Two years and 11 days since her official cancer diagnosis. Five months, twelve days since her second mass was discovered.
“Just an ordinary person trying to do extraordinary things. Be the light, and be the change.”
~ Emily Hardisty.
OpEd by: Melissa Godoy. Read more of her writing below.