May Executive Director Dish: Once a Cancer Mom, Always a Cancer Mom

Defining Support, The Cancer Warrior Mom Series is a collection of thoughts from many incredible Cancer Moms and how they define support. 

“They pretend to be strong, but they cry a river of tears daily. They wish they could take the pain away from their baby and suffer in their place! They watch helplessly as disease and poisons ravage their child’s body. They hold their child’s hand as they vomit…for the 5th time this morning (its a better day!). They spend more time in the hospital (which is 3 hrs away from home ) than at home and are on a first name basis with 90% of the staff. They sign consents for their child to be poked and cut in search of the cure. They collect hair from their little one’s pillow and place it in a bag..for the 3rd time. They miss their old friends who long ago stopped calling (because they didn’t know what to say) but find comfort from their new friends who all have kids going through the same nightmare. They see the pitty in others eyes when they look at their child… The look that says, “I’m sorry, but I’m so glad it’s not me”. They hear EVERYDAY how strong they are, and how other people could not handle what they live through, but the truth is, they don’t have a choice (and they don’t feel strong at all). They have been told horrible things, by well-meaning people, who criticize them for things they could never understand. They watch their child’s friends die and know the reality that it COULD happen to them. They have been to 6 funerals this year, all children. They feel guilt when their child is doing well because so many of their friends are not. They look forward, yet dread the day the poison stops, knowing this is what is fighting the monster. They live with the fear that it could happen again, every minute of every day! They wish their child could go back to school, but not because they are ready for a break, but because ALL kids deserve to be kids! They watch as their child cried because other children (and adults) say hurtful things. They wear gloves while handling the poison that they feed to their child every night. They have to tell their child “no” when they want to play sports, play outside, go to school, go swimming or go to a friends house because their immune system is too weak and an infection could take their life. They allow doctors and nurses to do horrible things to their baby in search of a cure. They search for the reason “WHY” so that they can make some sense of this nightmare, and none is to be found. They miss their other children as they grow up without them (and the siblings are not allowed to stay at the hospital)…missing all the milestones and special occasions, while fighting for their sick child’s life….wishing they could tuck them in bed at night, but they haven’t been home in weeks or months. They don’t remember the last time they slept more than 2 hrs straight. All of this and more…all while bringing awareness and raising funds so YOUR child will never face this hell! THEY ARE THE PARENTS OF A CHILD FIGHTING CANCER! They need your help!”

Erin & Isabella, 2008

I remember reading this passage a Cancer Mom wrote when I was going through Isabella’s fight against cancer.  I posted it on my Facebook page and so many people thought I had written this so beautifully.  I’m sure it was because I was writing the truth every day about what our life was like and this sounds just like the hell I was living.  Truth is, it’s the life every cancer mom lives.  I have to say that I struggle daily with her being gone, but the one thing I don’t miss is the actual life of a cancer mom.  It’s the scariest life you will ever lead. I flash back to it quickly when I sit and talk with a Mom who has a child fighting.  The look in her eye is tired but thankful… it keeps me going at my job for sure.  

Often times as a Cancer Mom you just feel helpless.  You are shuffling between hospitals and medicines and your other kids and bills and a marriage, the thought of having time to do anything that brings awareness or funding to your child’s disease feels impossible.  It never failed… Isabella would always relapse right before an event.  And like every year, our supporters would rally around us and put on an amazing day and do all the things I couldn’t.  They allowed me to just be her Mom and focus on keeping her alive.  I was so thankful to all the people that were doing things to help her and kids like Isabella when I couldn’t.  

This is what ISF does today.  We are the feet on the street for the families that MUST remain focused.  They can’t scream from the rooftops about survivor rates and funding cures and bringing in the best doctors because each day they are just living in the moment… because that is the only way to survive.

So with May upon us, it brings our focus to these Cancer Moms as we approach Mother’s Day.  I can’t tell you how many Mother’s Day posts I wrote about treasuring every moment of the day.  Opening that Mother’s Day card from Isabella and the kids, hoping it wasn’t my last from her.  (I still have them all.)  We would go to breakfast and the kids would take turns sitting on my lap as I quietly said prayers that I would always have 3 children for Mother’s Day.  Unfortunately, for me and so many other Moms… Mother’s Day is spent putting on a brave face for our other kids – knowing the day will never be the same.

Erin & Isabella, 2005

ISF is putting a TON of energy into our May events.  We want to tell you the stories of these incredible Moms and we want to do all the things this month they wish they had the time to do.  We want to be their voices, reminding you all that the ONLY way we can make things better for their kids is to do something about it.  So we are going to ask you to come to our May events.  We are going to ask you to donate on behalf of these Moms this month.  Donate as it were YOUR child or someone you knew.  Set up to donate every month because you know it’s the right thing to do.  Show these Moms that we support them and we are behind them and promise we are going to do everything we can to bring the doctors and treatments to their kids so they can focus on what they need to do right now.  We are here behind them and this month, we need you to be too.  

-Isabella’s Mommy (Once a Cancer Mom, always a Cancer Mom)

**We are working during the month of May in honor of Cancer Moms everywhere, fighting for their kids. We want to show that ‘Cancer Messed With the Wrong Mom’ and we have their back while they do what they do best. Donate in honor of these incredible women, your donation to the Isabella Santos Foundation helps fund research so desperately needed for rare pediatric cancer patients. DONATE NOW

Scoop Charlotte Mother’s Day Sip & Shop, May 8th

Orginally on

Join the scoop girls on May 8th from 6pm to 8pm at Providence Plastic Surgery for a Mother’s Day Sip and Shop ~ check your spring & summer gifting off while you sip and do good! gathered 16 of their favorite fashion, beauty & gifting vendors for you to shop just in time for your Mother’s Day, Summer Style, Grad Gifting, Hostess Thank You’s & more. Proceeds from your $10 ticket price will benefit the Isabella Santos Foundation.

Pick up a ticket for you and your friends here ~ the first 100 ticket purchasers receive a scoop swag bag!

Invite your mom, daughter and girlfriends for a girls night out to benefit the Isabella Santos Foundation and enjoy fabulous shopping, bubbles, beauty and treats.

Your ticket includes two glasses of sparkling wine and the opportunity to shop some of scoopcharlotte’s favorite businesses:


Southern Fragrance Candles

Heather Opal Art

Belle Belier

Shani Amara

Beck Bags

Wildly Urban Co

Blis Gifts

Erma James Boutique

The Usual CLT

Fabrik South Charlotte

Scout & Molly’s Waverly


AR Workshop

Worthy + Badass


Don’t forget to grab your tickets now for you and your friends here ~ the first 100 ticket purchasers receive a scoop swag bag!

11030 Golf Links Drive, Suite 103 Charlotte, North Carolina 28277 (704) 771-1747 or Find them on FACEBOOK or INSTAGRAM

Pediatric Cancer Event, Dixie Pig Tega Cay: April 27

Got plans on Saturday, April 27? How about heading to the Dixie Pig in Tegay Cay for a day of fun to benefit pediatric cancer research through ISF and Levine Children’s Hospital?

Great Saturday event for the entire family starting at 1pm and running through 5… live and silent auctions, live music, bounce houses, and more. Thanks to Blue Blaze Brewing, Dreamchaser’s Brewery and NoDa Brewing Company for donating beer so all sales go directly to pediatric cancer research!

  • Live & silent auction (Autographed Jaire Alexander Green Bay Packer Jersey, Jet Blue tickets, a weekend in Blowing Rock, gift cards to local restaurants and salons, ect).
  • Free bounce houses (sponsored by Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge) for the kids,
  • Live music
  • Beer purchases from Blue Blaze, Dreamchasers, and NoDa breweries go directly to the event.

Come on out for a great afternoon and make a difference in a child’s life!


  • WHEN: Saturday, April 27, 2019
  • TIME: 1pm-5pm
  • WHERE: Dixie Pig Tega Cay: 2150 Gold Hill Rd, Tega Cay, SC

The ISF Skinny – April 2019 Edition

April Executive Director Dish

March is always a big one for us here at ISF.  Isabella’s 14th birthday would have been March 9th and each year we try to think of new ways to honor her but also do it in a way that is respectful of the day.  I’m always anti-birthday cake and a Happy Birthday song on that day and as many of you know – I stay far away to preserve my own heart.   I personally always think blood drives are the way to go.  What better way to honor a life, than to give a life?  

Our relationship with the Community Blood Center (which will be changing their name to “One Blood”, but same community mission and same team) is stronger than ever.  One of the big things I’m working on this year is defining the meaning of PARTNERSHIP.  I saw a quote once that has just stuck with me…

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”

Our partnership with CBCC is one of our favorites because we believe in each other’s missions and want to do everything we can to make each other a success.  It really is like a family dynamic for us, much like Levine Children’s Hospital.  So what better way to celebrate Isabella, than with our family?  I loved watching the social media from afar (yup, I got the heck out of dodge).  Of course, we have our old school ISF supporters who have been there from the beginning, but I loved seeing the new wave of ISF sitting in those donations chairs.  I know the lines were long and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate each and every single person who took the time to give.  In all, 239 units were collected and 717 lives were impacted.  I mean… come on.  That’s insane.  I truly can’t express how much this personally meant to me. My goal is to one day have a 500 unit drive and I’m thinking 2020 is our year. 

Speaking of the blood center, my Marketing Director Rachel Wood and I boarded a plane for DC last month as I was honored with a national award from the American Blood Center.  It was such a humbling experience receiving the Larry Frederick Award for our commitment to raising awareness for the need of blood donation.  Larry was there to introduce me and watching him raise a picture of my daughter on stage to a silent room really broke my heart.  Larry was so touched by her story and the people that we met that evening were amazing.  Thank you to Marin Grable and his team for the nomination.  It really was a beautiful evening.

Right off the plane and right into the Jersey Mike’s Day of Giving.   Speaking of great partnerships.  Boy, do we appreciate our Jersey Mike’s partnership!  The team did such an amazing job of spreading the word and wow did our supporters deliver.  Last year we raised just over $135,000 and this year we blew it out of the water raising just over $167,000 for ISF.  The owners of Jersey Mike’s and their staff rocked it out that day in their Cancer Messed with the Wrong Team shirts.  You had to be living under a rock to not see your social media channels flooded with subs.  We love partners in the community like this who understand the importance of giving back.  What an impact they made in one single day on top of a giving month as well.  Unreal.

As you know, one of my other philosophies at ISF is to “Work Smarter.  Not Harder.”  For this reason in 2019 we really narrowed our focus to Charlotte.  We dropped some of our expansion events that were successful, but lots of work and travel.  Instead, we are looking to grow our reach in the Charlotte community.  I feel like the impact we are making here in Charlotte at Levine’s over the next 5 years should be something every single Charlottean should care about – so we are focusing on you.  And not to mention what having a successful nation-wide known rare pediatric cancer program in our city… who and what that will attract.  Simply put, we are working to help make our city better.  For that reason, our May event calendar is slammed.  

Our traditional Coffee for Cure events are being revamped.  As a non-profit, it is important to keep those events new, current, and relevant.  So we have a host of events coming up in May geared around Moms.  Cancer Moms are handed one crappy deck of cards in life and the amount of time they have to spend keeping their children alive doesn’t leave much time left for them to also find a cure for their disease.  So we are working in their honor in the month of May and letting you know how Cancer Messed With the Wrong Mom.  We are not only supporting the Moms who are fighting for children but also funding research so desperately needed for their rare cancer patients. Take a look at the May Garden Parties and let us know if you want to join.  So many of you understand the importance of what we are doing and we need your support.  Attend the events if you can, bring a friend to introduce her to ISF, donate in honor of a Mom, donate in honor of a child.  We just ask that you do something with ISF in May to make a difference.  These kids (and Moms) need your help.

Also, all of these May events have expenses associated with them and we would LOVE to cover them through the generosity of sponsorships.  Thank you to Pure Intentions Coffee who will be providing coffee for all events! Owner, Matt Yarmey, is on our Board of Directors and takes his role in our Charlotte community serious. We love how he has jumped in to help us make a difference. If your business is looking to get in front of the amazing philanthropic community of women in Charlotte, please email me, I would love to talk to about how your business can become a “partner” of ours.  You know we believe in growing great partnerships!!!  

Whew!  That was a busy month!  I feel like I say that every month though.   We hope you all have a wonderful spring break this month and come back energized for the big May events we have coming up at ISF.  And again, thank you for all the support you provided in March that allowed us to have one our best months to date.  You guys are the best. 

Erin (Isabella’s Mommy)