ISF Summer Intern Honors Memory of Friend By Helping to Raise Money for Pediatric Cancer

Written by Team Cure Creators Co-Lead, Amelia Leahy

In the summer of 2008, Ellie was diagnosed with stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma. ​​Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a rare type of cancer that forms in soft tissue — specifically skeletal muscle tissue or sometimes hollow organs such as the bladder or uterus. She had completed 30 straight days of radiation to her lungs and abdomen by the end of October 2008. Ellie completed a total of 42 rounds of chemotherapy through May 2009, resulting in her kicking RMS into remission in June of 2009! Sadly, a few months later her cancer had returned, spreading all across her body. On June 23rd, 2010, Ellie gained her angel wings, leaving her memory and legacy behind.

Through her battle, I only have one memory of seeing Ellie truly “sick”. It did not matter what round of chemo she was on, she never showed the friends around her the pain she felt, or the worry about what was to come next. Ellie was my dearest friend to the end. So much so that when it came time for my 8th birthday party, only 18 days before she passed away, Ellie was there. She chose to celebrate me in her last days- showing me the true definition of a friend. About a week later, I saw Ellie for the last time- the only time I ever remember her looking sick. We sat and watched “I Dream of Jeannie” and laughed like all was right in the world. I will never be able to thank Mrs. Amy Potvin and my mom enough for making sure I would have that last memory with her.

At the time of Ellie’s passing, I really did not understand what was going on. How does an 8 year old process the loss of her best friend? It has only been in the past few years that I have begun to properly grieve. I miss her voice, her bubbly personality, and her want for everyone in the room to have a huge smile on their face. I grieve for all of the memories we never got to make; going to prom together, the countless sleepovers that would have ensued, visiting each other in college, etc. In this time of processing, I truly have found my passion for honoring Ellie’s life, and continuing her legacy.

Joining The Isabella Santos Foundation this summer as an intern is the most tangible way I can further Ellie’s legacy. I am raising money and fighting for children that deserve to live their lives without cancer. What ISF has been able to accomplish and create for these children is something both Ellie and Isabella deserved to have. While no one is able to change the past, everyone is able to help shape the future. That is what ISF has been for me this summer: a chance to help shape the future into a place where there are cures for pediatric cancer.

My heart will always hurt at the loss of Ellie. She was a source of kindness and light to everyone she met. I am so grateful for the relationships that have bloomed from this pain. While we have all scattered to different colleges now, that small group of us from Endhaven Elementary, who learned all together how to live after such a tragedy, will always be friends. Ellie’s passing gave me the sweetest gift of friendship with her twin sister Grace. We are bonded with so much love and appreciation for each other that I know Ellie’s presence will never feel too far from me.