Isabella was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma just 6 days after my 1st birthday so I never really knew her without cancer. My Mom and Dad tell me stories all the time about my life with her. We did everything together and I brought so much comfort to her when no one else could. I would come and visit her in the hospital and crawl right up in bed with her as we would watch movies and laugh while we ate dinner together in her bed. I would walk around the hospital with her as Mom wheeled her IV pole up and down the hallways. She would show me around and introduce me to everyone. She was so proud of me. We took so many trips together. We loved going to Disney World and running from ride to ride as we got to meet every Disney Character you could imagine. We had special days at with the Panthers and got to meet people like Steve Smith, Tony Stewart and more. Our whole family moved to New York City for a couple of months with Isabella got cancer in her brain. We stayed in an apartment that overlooked the city. I would play trains all day long while I waited on Isabella to finish treatment, then she would come home and Mom would take us to the park and play for hours. People would always look at Isabella in a weird way because she had a big scar on her bald head but I never even noticed it on her. To me she was always beautiful. For the years during Isabella’s treatment, I became her best friend. She would always ask me to hold her hand when she would get her line put in her chest. It was hard for me to watch, but I knew that she needed me and I would help her be strong. Near the end of her life, she didn’t want to be around very many people. But, I was always allowed to be around her. She would let me crawl in bed with her and watch movies and rub her back. She would ask about my day and I would tell her all the things I did and she would tell me about her day at home or in the hospital. We would wrestle with Daddy and laugh and sing at night together before we crawled in bed each night.
These are all stories that my Mom and Dad tell me. But I don’t really remember them. I’m thankful for pictures and videos that tell me this story too, and I hope one day these memories become more real to me. I remember her red hair, and how she said my name “Graaaant” when she would call for me. I remember she like Taylor Swift and Ariel and American Girl dolls. I remember the day she died. I was at a summer camp and my Grandma came to pick me up. I remember coming into Mom and Dad’s room and she was asleep in their bed and I told her goodbye and that I loved her. I remember going to Calvary for her funeral and that my cousins were there and Miss Chrissy read a poem. But I don’t remember much more than that.
It’s crazy to think that we were best friends, but I can’t remember it. But that is what pediatric cancer does. It steals people from you. It steals sons and daughters, it steals brothers and sisters, it steals best friends. It also steals the possibility of creating memories. Cancer stole my sister, my best friend and a lifetime of memories that we were supposed to make together. We were supposed to be in high school together and be at each other’s college graduations and weddings. We were supposed to be aunts and uncles to each others kids and our kids were going to be cousins who would go to the beach together. We were supposed to be able to call each other and complain about Mom and Dad and have secrets between us that we would never tell them. But none of that will happen.
Now, the only way I can be the best brother I can be is to bring her flowers to her site and talk to her in my mind. But the other thing I can do is help to find a cure for the disease that took her from me. My gift to her to prevent someone else losing their best friend too. She should still be here with me today, riding the bus to school, laughing, playing and fighting – the way that brothers and sisters were meant to be. But she’s not.
I hope that you will give today in honor of my best friend and sister Isabella. Together we can make a difference and stop this awful disease from taking one more kid from a family. I know she is looking down on us and is hopefully proud of the brother that I’m still trying and will always be to be to her. I miss her so much.
– Grant Santos, Isabella’s Brother