Big Accomplishments for this Little Cancer Warrior

Over the past year, Madison was in the deep throes of battling osteosarcoma, a rare pediatric bone cancer.  In that same year, Madison, now age 6, learned to walk again, completed kindergarten, stole the heart of Duff Goldman from Kids Baking Championship and most importantly, beat cancer. 

That’s a big list of accomplishments for one little girl.

In 2018, over the course of 3 short days, Madison’s life swiftly changed. It all started with pain in her right leg and completely lost the ability to walk a few days later.  After immediately heading in for X-rays after what thought was a possible broken bone, a soft spot was found on her right femur. Immediately taken to Levine Children’s Hospital, Madison was later diagnosed with osteosarcoma in April of 2018 at five years old.  This type of cancer is extremely rare and almost unheard of in kids her age The solid tumor discovered took up to about three-fourths of Madison’s adolescent bone.

After several rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor on her femur, she had surgery to remove her right femur and replace it with one from a cadaver. Fortunately, the medical team was able to remove most of the tumor and save both of Madison’s growth plates.

In February 2019, she finished treatment at Levine Children’s and has since had very positive scans showing no cancer! At about the same time of finishing treatment, Madison learned her Wish trip would be granted by Make-A-Wish Central & Western North Carolina Chapter.

Madison and her family just got back from her Make-A-Wish trip to Los Angeles.  She didn’t ask to meet Taylor Swift or go to Disney World. She wished to meet Duff Goldman, a silly and bald baker. And what happened? They became best friends of course! 

“Duff Goldman by far is the most genuine person alive. Duff and Madison hit it off immediately and she didn’t ever want to leave. One of the sweetest moments was when they got in a mini food fight. Duff covered her chef jacket with chocolate and jam, said you can’t trust a chef with a clean jacket. Madison never wants to wash it!” 

Madison and her family enjoyed baking time with Duff, exploring Universal Studios, riding in limos and exploring some of California’s yummy eats. “To think where we were a year ago. The whole trip was surreal. We made some pretty awesome memories that we will never forget, none of us will ever be the same.”

And that’s what Make-A-Wish does, they create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. The positive impact wishes give to kids and their families are invaluable.

For the second year, the Isabella Santos Foundation ran an online March fundraiser in honor of what would have been Isabella’s birthday month, that fundraiser directly impacted Madison’s wish trip.  Make-A-Wish granted Isabella her wish and gave her the best days of her life as well as giving her family the best memories of theirs. Honoring Isabella’s birthday by providing the same for another cancer fighter is exactly what she would love!  

Thank you for supporting the Isabella Santos Foundation, we can’t express enough how much your support inspires us to do more for these cancer warriors and their families. You helped make a little girl’s dream come true and it will be something that will stay with her forever. 

Photos of Madison’s Wish Trip:

A Passion To Help Make An Impact On Pediatric Cancer

Full blog article on The Untamed Mind

L-R: KJ’s Dad, Isabella’s Mom, KJ. 2018 ISF 5K/10K

“Dyson and all the kids I have had the opportunity to meet are heroes. They are our future. They need all of the help they can get so that they can become the firefighters, doctors, professional athletes, artists, musicians, politicians, and teachers they all wish to be when they grow up. We all once dreamed big and still are. We have to make sure the kids in our world never feel like they have to stop dreaming. That the dreams they have can become reality. Every kid deserves that much. Every kid deserves the one thing that is vital for their growth and happiness….” – KJ Brent, NFL Wide Receiver & ISF supporter since the beginning.

KJ Brent, then a local high school footballer and family friend, was only 18 years old when Isabella passed away.  KJ and his family attended her Celebration of Life and something moved in him that moment forward… and that something hasn’t stopped.

KJ went on to play football in college and the NFL.  He is currently a Wide Receiver with the Tampa Bay Buccanears , is married to his high school sweetheart and continues to find ways to give back and impact kids fighting cancer.  We are so proud of the positive role model he has come to be and love that he feels just as much lift from these little heroes fighting for their lives.

His latest blog brought us to tears. To watch a young man reach for his dreams and want to help kids fighting cancer do the same… well, it’s simply just awesome.  You can’t teach heart and this guy has boatloads of it. Read K.J.’s blog article.

#cancermessedwith #cancermessedwiththewrongbuc

Fighting Pediatric Cancer: Madison’s Story

Madison & her Care Team

After almost a year ago of being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare pediatric bone cancer, Madison received the news she has been fighting so hard to hear at her 3 months scan yesterday from Dr. Oesterheld. SHE BEAT CANCER. Madison will continue to have maintenance scans and therapy on her leg, but was able to ‘Ring the Bell’ at Levine Children’s Hospital signifying the end of her treatment and beginning of living life cancer-free!

After several rounds of chemotherapy in 2018 to shrink the tumor on her femur, she had surgery to remove her right femur and replace it with one from a cadaver. Fortunately, the medical team was able to remove most of the tumor and save both of Madison’s growth plates. If you are familiar with Madison’s story (posted below), you will remember her parents promised her a puppy to help motivate her to learn to walk again.  And just a few weeks ago Oakley, a black Goldendoodle, came home with her!

Madison & Meredith, Program Director at Levine’s Seacrest Studios

Madison was full of giggles and smiles all afternoon. Here she is pictured with some of her Levine Care Team who she adores! And with Meredith, Levine’s Seacrest Studios Coordinator, who naturally showed up in a unicorn onesie to celebrate.  We don’t want to miss giving Dr. Oesterheld credit for wearing pink and unicorn socks for the occasion!  Levine’s Doctors, Nurses, Child Life Specialists, Staff… and yes dancing Seacrest Studios Unicorns are simply the best. The. Very. Best.

Madison has so much to look forward to as her family just learned she gets her Make-A-Wish trip to L.A. to visit Duff Goldman of Kids Baking Championship.  How cool would it be to say… ‘I hung out with Duff’.  ‘I baked a cake with Duff’. ‘Yup, Duff and I are BFFs.’  We are beyond excited for this little baker and can’t wait to see more from their trip.

Congratulations Madison, we are so proud of all your hard work and determination! And thank you to everyone at Levine’s for everything you do for Madison and other kids fighting cancer!  

Congratulations Madison, we are so proud of all your hard work and determination! And thank you to everyone at Levine’s for everything you do for kids fighting cancer!  

MADISON’S STORY (Recorded September 2018)

BIG HEROES COME IN SMALL PACKAGES  (Blog post published October 2018)

Madison and mom Laura

Madison was diagnosed in April of 2018 with osteosarcoma at age five. After several rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor on her femur, she had surgery to remove her right femur and replace it with one from a cadaver. Fortunately, the medical team was able to remove most of the tumor and save both of Madison’s growth plates. She continues to receive chemotherapy and recover from her surgery. Once Madison gets the green light from her doctors to be more mobile, she is determined to learn to walk again so she can earn a super cute bribe from her parents – a Golden Retriever puppy. 

A Community of Support

Madison and her family live two hours from Charlotte in Scotland County. She and her mom make the drive each week to Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital where Madison receives in-patient treatment Thursday-Saturday. They then return home for four days to be with their family – Madison’s dad, Michael, and big sister, Riley – and where Laura teaches three days a week. 

“Madison’s diagnosis has changed us all,” says Laura. “Michael and I have to raise each of our daughters as single parents during the days when we are in Charlotte for treatment. The hardest part is not being together under the same roof. We are very grateful for the great friends we have made through this journey. You realize you can’t do this alone so you learn to rely on support from others.”

Team Madison

For the remainder of the year, Madison will be homebound where she loves to cook, bake, do crafts and make “how-to” videos on her mom’s phone. When she finishes chemo in December, she’ll resume her favorite activities including dance classes, swimming and learning how to ride her bike.

Chef Madison

In January, she will start kindergarten at the school where Laura teaches and where they already have a tremendous community of support. Faculty and students have created “Team Madison” in honor of Madison for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Scotland County. Laura and Madison stay busy supporting the team. It all started with their Levine Children’s Hospital life coach bringing them some beads to make necklaces and bracelets. From there, Laura and Madison started making “Madison’s Hope Rope” key chains that they give to patients at Levine Children’s Hospital and sell to raise funds for their Relay For Life team and other cancer organizations. 

“Madison is our hero and is such an inspiration,” says Laura. “She’s such a good kid and is all about wanting to help other people. Even though she’s five, she’s changing people’s lives.”

Madison and sister Riley

Spreading Love to Everyone Who #CancerMessedWith

Thank you for helping us spread so much love last week to everyone who #cancermessedwith. The Cancer Messed With brand was designed to give anyone a way to rally behind a loved one affected by cancer. A way to show them love and to help life them up when they need it the most. Not just during love week… but every day.

Buy your Cancer Messed With shirt or hat: cancermessedwith.com 

Big Heroes Come In Small Packages

Madison and mom Laura

*UPDATE 2/25: After almost a year ago of being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare pediatric cancer, Madison received the news she has been fighting so hard for at her 3 months scan. She beat cancer. She will continue to have maintenance scans and therapy on her leg, but was able to ‘Ring the Bell’ at Levine Children’s Hospital signifying the end of her treatment and beginning of living life cancer free!

Oh, and she got a puppy! Oakley, a black Goldendoodle!

Madison was diagnosed this past April with osteosarcoma at age five. After several rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor on her femur, she had surgery to remove her right femur and replace it with one from a cadaver. Fortunately, the medical team was able to remove most of the tumor and save both of Madison’s growth plates. She continues to receive chemotherapy and recover from her surgery. Once Madison gets the green light from her doctors to be more mobile, she is determined to learn to walk again so she can earn a super cute bribe from her parents – a Golden Retriever puppy. 

A Community of Support

Madison and her family live two hours from Charlotte in Scotland County. She and her mom make the drive each week to Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital where Madison receives in-patient treatment Thursday-Saturday. They then return home for four days to be with their family – Madison’s dad, Michael, and big sister, Riley – and where Laura teaches three days a week. 

“Madison’s diagnosis has changed us all,” says Laura. “Michael and I have to raise each of our daughters as single parents during the days when we are in Charlotte for treatment. The hardest part is not being together under the same roof. We are very grateful for the great friends we have made through this journey. You realize you can’t do this alone so you learn to rely on support from others.”

Chef Madison

Team Madison

For the remainder of the year, Madison will be homebound where she loves to cook, bake, do crafts and make “how-to” videos on her mom’s phone. When she finishes chemo in December, she’ll resume her favorite activities including: dance classes, swimming and learning how to ride her bike.

In January, she will start kindergarten at the school where Laura teaches and where they already have a tremendous community of support. Faculty and students have created “Team Madison” in honor of Madison for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Scotland County. Laura and Madison stay busy supporting the team. It all started with their Levine Children’s Hospital life coach bringing them some beads to make necklaces and bracelets. From there, Laura and Madison started making “Madison’s Hope Rope” key chains that they give to patients at Levine Children’s Hospital and sell to raise funds for their Relay For Life team and other cancer organizations. 

“Madison is our hero and is such an inspiration,” says Laura. “She’s such a good kid and is all about wanting to help other people. Even though she’s five, she’s changing people’s lives.”

Madison and sister Riley