"I'm just a Lineman from Penelec"
Heartwarming book deal for this amazing story of IBEW families battle with Childhood Cancer
Tom Whitehead has met heads of state and dined with Academy Award-winning actors. He’s consulted with some of the most respected doctors in the world. He’s traveled the globe and given so many speeches he’s understandably lost count, raising money for childhood cancer research and the foundation named after his now-teenage daughter.
To top it off, he’s done it while battling some health conditions of his own, including skin cancer and an ongoing fight against Crohn’s Disease.
But when he and his family return home to central Pennsylvania, Whitehead doesn’t take much time to rest. The member of Johnstown, Pa., Local 459 goes back to work as a lineman for Penelec, doing what he did long before Emily Whitehead became an international figure.
“We’ll be on a Hollywood set,” Tom Whitehead, 51, said, “and two days later, I’ll be out in the woods working on power lines.”
When it was suggested everyone would understand if he wanted to take a break from such grueling work and go to work full time for the Emily Whitehead Foundation, his response was simple.
“I love my job,” he said, “I really do.”
Whitehead has spoken glowingly about his IBEW brothers and sisters in the past, especially how they came to the aid of him and his wife Kari when Emily was diagnosed with leukemia as a 5-year-old in 2010. He’ll do so again in a soon-to-be released book.
“Praying for Emily: The Faith, Science and Miracles that Saved Our Daughter” is scheduled to be released on Oct. 6. The entire Whitehead family wrote the book along with co-author Danelle Morton. The foreword was written by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who featured Emily in his 2015 film “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.”
“I’m just a lineman for Penelec,” Tom said. “I never expected to be a keynote speaker in front of people all over the world. We just tried to stay positive and our miracle happened from things that are really hard to explain. I hope that comes through in the book.”
And yes, he made sure the IBEW got mentioned, along with his wife’s co-workers at Penn State, where she was employed during Emily’s battle. He wrote about his own battle with melanoma in hopes of raising awareness about it among members. Construction workers and linemen, who spend much of their time working outside, are particularly susceptible to the form of skin cancer.