Written by Erin Santos, Isabella’s Mommy

January 1st, 2018 just seems unreal.  What seems more unreal is 10 years of ISF behind us.  We started out that first year when Isabella was diagnosed and raised $7,000.  Our 2017 books are closing and we hit the goal we had in place of 1 million dollars raised.  Unbelievable.  It makes me wonder where this little “project” of ours is going to go.  With an even bigger goal in 2018, as well as a new treatment room in construction, in her name, opening its doors later this year, I know there is so much more ahead of us to accomplish.

With growth, comes change… some good and some bad.  Isabella will always be the true Founder of this organization and her face will forever be tied to all we are doing.  However, as a growing foundation, we have realized that giving in her honor the last couple of years has propelled us to success we never would have imagined.  But now, we want to refocus our organization on the children we are trying to save today.  I have always said there is an Isabella in every city.  And as we expand into new cities and markets, it is becoming painfully obvious that there are children everywhere who are in the fight of their lives.  We want to start introducing you to these children, their families and their stories.  They need your help to fight this disease that still has a survivor rate that would break any parent’s heart.  We also want to start educating our supporters on other rare cancers that can benefit from the treatments we are funding.  Neuroblastoma is scary, but there are other cancers out there with ineffective treatments and without organizations like ours in their corner, kids have very little chance for a cure.  Every child’s life is worth saving and we want to spread our wings a little more with your help.

I’m excited about the upcoming changes in our focus because even I need to put my memories of Isabella in a safe place.  For years I told myself that we were different.  We could handle loss and turn this horrible tragedy into something that could potentially change the lives of others.  While we are doing this, unfortunately, it came at a price.  Death changes people and we are not exempt from this.

I always look back at the person I was before cancer, during cancer, and even during her death.  I’ve referred to it as a movie I watch because that person seems unrecognizable to me now.  Her death has made me independent and strong, focused and determined.  But it has also made me closed off and cold at times.  I can be a hard person to get to know because her death has built a fortress around me.  I find solace in being alone, my anxiety can take me over completely and I find at times that I want to run from everything.  While losing a child makes you realize how important every minute is with your other children, sometimes it comes at a price to others in your life.

I don’t know why we hurt the ones we love the most.  We just do.  And sometimes we can’t stop doing it.  Death changed me a lot, and it changed Stuart too.  The person you once went to battle with becomes the new battle.  You find yourself just trying to get through the day and the other person becomes the casualty of this.   One thing remained consistent through our grief, our love for her, our kids and all that ISF is accomplishing.  But, I think we have just hit a time in our life when we want to find happiness again, and sometimes that happiness isn’t together.

While I feel like this is a very personal subject, I have never shied away from my life being an open book.  I felt like it was important to let the supporters of ISF know that nothing is changing with ISF.  Even though Stuart and I are no longer together, we still stand together and will do everything we can to continue to grow the foundation and make a difference in her name.  I love when we are together at an event and people say to me, “You would never know about the changes behind the scenes in your family.  You guys seem stronger than ever.”   Maybe because the love that kept her alive for so long will always be there for each other because we know the other one has been to hell and back.  There is too much history to be any other way.  So that is all you will see.  We will always be together for her.

We hope these changes will not impact the support for all we are doing together.  My belief is this is just a new start to a big year ahead and we are so proud of what we have accomplished.  This is just the beginning… maybe just a new beginning.

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