Written by Erin Santos, President of The Isabella Santos Foundation
I saw this picture of Isabella in our new video and it stopped me in my tracks. One of my many awesome abilities is my long and deep memory. In the memories of Isabella, it is a a blessing and a curse. Many of you will look at this picture and think of how happy she was. And you would be right. She was happy here. She was one of the happiest children you ever met. What you don’t see in this picture is the struggle. This was Monday, September 19, 2011. We were in New York City for dreaded quarterly scans. We tried to make our time in NYC exciting for her and this day was no different. We were given a private tour of Magnolia Bakery and private cupcake decorating party. She brought her American Girl doll with her who also liked to decorate cupcakes. She and her doll, Lanie proceeded to decorate cupcakes with hot pink icing and every color of sprinkle in the rainbow.
Behind the scenes she had every symptom imaginable. Headaches, vomiting, stomach pains, dizziness and blurred vision to name a few. I was anxiety ridden because I knew something was wrong. I took a call during this cupcake session from a nurse who told me she was scheduling a neuro consult for Isabella the next day. I felt sick. I found out the next day that the cancer had spread to her brain, her bones, her bone marrow, areas in her chest and abdomen. She was dripping in cancer. The disease in her brain was bleeding and we should be expecting seizures any day. We should go home, be with our family and call our home health care nurse. This was it. Just yesterday she was decorating cupcakes with a smile on her face.
Look at her face. Then look at it again and tell me if you see cancer in that picture.
That’s the thing about Isabella. She chose to dance in the rain instead of waiting for the storm to pass. She lived every day like she was happy to be alive. As a matter of fact, 4 days after this picture was taken – we held the 4th annual 5k for Kids Cancer and she danced and partied until the sun went down. She lived 282 strong days after that death sentence we received.
The longer she has been gone, the more I have gotten to know her. I watch Sophia become obsessed with her in her daily life. It gets scary at times to watch her be so consumed with everything in our house that is Isabella’s. She wears HER clothes, she watches HER High School Musical Movie on HER iTouch, and listens to HER Taylor Swift CDs as she falls asleep in her bed, on HER Pillow Pets, with HER blankies. I have to go to Isabella’s room each morning, open her door, and hear that same creak in the door that I heard for years when waking her for the hospital. I have to go over to her bed and see a little girl in kitty pajamas, covered in pink little blankies and wake her. But instead, this healthy little girl has hair… this time it’s Sophia.
For Sophia, Isabella has become the ultimate role model. She sees pictures of her doing amazing things with this bright red hair and her big smile. She sees her enjoying every minute of her life in pictures. Sophia doesn’t know Isabella with cancer or being defeated. People talk so positively about her with admiration. The story of Isabella has been built up over the years so much that Sophia wants to be just like her. I struggle with that because I want Sophia to be her own person, and then it hit me:
I want to be like her too.
I want to leave a lasting footprint. I want to inspire people. I want to make a difference in the world. I want to leave a lasting legacy and live a life that is fulfilling and rewarding. I want to think that my time in this world was used towards a greater purpose and lives were saved because of actions I made. I want people to see my picture and think I was truly happy and no matter what was going on in my life, I was going to fight through it and do something monumental with my day, my year, my life.
We should all want to be like her.
Her fight and her face inspire me every day and for this reason I choose to continue raising money to make a difference and do what she would be doing if she were alive today. She would want to save her friends and make the world a better place.
They told her she was done and she wasn’t. And I’m not done either.
Please give to this amazing cause and ask your friends to do the same: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/isabellasantos/8th-annual-5k10k-for-kids-cancer
Register for the race: www.5kforkidscancer.com
[youtube_video] sH3nELoFQHU [/youtube_video]