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Isabella Would Have Been 14

Written by Erin Santos, ISF Executive Director & President

6 years ago you couldn’t pay me to sit and have coffee with a little girl who beat cancer and was also Isabella’s age.  No Thank You!  But time has passed and now I find myself being eager to be in the presence of 13 and 14-year-old girls.  I’m constantly wondering what they are into, how they behave and what they say.  So when I got the opportunity to meet Sydney, who beat cancer last year I was excited about our meet and greet.  Side note, we also helped fund her Make-A-Wish trip to go to London for the ultimate Harry Potter experience.  Another side note, Sidney’s sister was in Grant’s preschool class at Calvary when Isabella was diagnosed and fighting.  We had no clue at the time of raising funds for her trip that it was for a girl who we once had this connection with. Full circle.

This girl was precious… like beyond precious.  She was beautiful and mature and wise beyond her years.  I find these are all traits of a child who has stared death in the eye more than once.  I couldn’t stop listening to her talk and was consumed with the fact that she let her mom dote on her and play with her hair while she talked to us.  Any other teen would have swatted her Mom’s hand away.  But I feel like Sydney allowed it because she knew her Mom too went through something and knows she is lucky to be alive.  

I loved listening to her talk about the doctors and procedures and how it really felt to go through all her treatment.  And then I asked the question, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?”  Such an innocent question but as she answered, I felt a lump in my throat and the tears beginning to swell.  So jealous that she can answer this question and how I craved being able to ask it of my own daughter.   No matter how much I try to hide the pain, this family knows that no longer how much time has passed or how good I say I’m doing now – they really are the lucky ones.  They are in fact sitting with a Mom who should have a daughter sitting along with us.  Who knows, they could have even been friends.

Sydney immediately came to my side and put her arms around me and started to cry.  It was so touching to me.  I don’t know if she was crying because she was sad for me or sad for Isabella or wondering how she survived and Isabella didn’t.  It could have been a number of things but I have to say that it has been years since someone touched me in that way.  The hug lasted a long time.  For those of you who know me – that means it was over 5 seconds.  But his hug lasted for minutes.  I tried to release her but she wouldn’t let go.  It was if she knew I needed it.  She was right.

I don’t know what Sydney’s life has ahead for her, but I know it’s going to be amazing.  I’m excited to sit back and watch because this girl deserves every single minute of it and I know she will live it not only for her and her family but for some of those who didn’t get the chance to live it and I love that.  It makes me think that while some weren’t meant to survive, she is one that was meant to live.   Isabella’s birthday is in March. We can’t think of a better gift than to honor another child’s wish in honor of Isabella’s life. 

It is our goal to raise $6,000 in 14 days for what would have been Isabella’s 14th birthday.  14 years old… just like Sydney. Last year, you helped us make Sydney’s wish to visit the Harry Potter museum in London come true.  Sidney has finished treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and recently ‘Rang the Bell’ in December 2018 at Levine Children’s Hospital signifying the beginning of living life cancer free.

Make-A-Wish granted Isabella her wish and gave her the best days of her life.  Make-A-Wish also gave her family the best memories of theirs.  The positive impact wishes give to kids and their families are invaluable.  Sydney and her family experienced the same.

We hope you will help us pass this on yet again. Please donate to help another child’s wish come true.  Donations of all values will help us collectively reach the $6,000 fundraising goal and will be gifted to the Make-A-Wish foundation to go towards a child’s wish.  

Magical Moments

A very special group of people sent the Santos family on their last Disney trip with Isabella right before she passed away. They knew that her most favorite memories were in Disney… and were determined to give Isabella and her family one last magical moment together. Isabella could barely get out of bed a good bit of the trip, but there were times the magic brought her out of her pain for just a few moments. Here she is watching fireworks right outside her balcony.

“We even decided to take her there just a couple of weeks before she passed away. Make-A-Wish has made this place the one place in the world that brought her the most happiness. We saw the impact that a wish trip had on her mental and physical state, as well as the rest of us. It made miracles happen for us – so many times.”

13-year old Sidney is fighting cancer… and we want to help bring her happiness too! From one magical moment to another, our hearts swell to think that we all could play a part in her WISH to visit the Harry Potter museum in London. We still have $3,000 left to raise to reach the $6,000 fundraising goal by March 31.  DETAILS and DONATE.

LETS BECOME A WISHMAKER TOGETHER IN HONOR OF ISABELLA!

It Made Miracles Happen For Us

Written by Erin Santos, Isabella’s Mom

I remember that I hated when someone mentioned it to me.  We were about a week into our initial diagnosis and I was sitting in a playroom with my 2 year old attached to an IV pole.  “Have you asked for her wish yet?” a woman said to me.  If I had a weapon I would of hit her with it.  How dare she mention this to me one week in?  I didn’t know if my daughter was going to live or die and you are trying to tell me to call Make-A-Wish.  That organization is for dying kids, and she is not dying.

I could write a book on things you should not say to a parent in these situations.  This woman was obnoxious and out of line, but in the end she was right. Make-A-Wish was something we should look into, when we were ready.  When we were, we discovered that Make-A-Wish was not for dying children.  It was for children who had life-threatening diseases but not a death wish.  So we called, we asked Isabella what her wish would be, and they granted it.

For those of you who knew Isabella, you knew what this wish would be.  Of course it was to go to Disney World because she was all princess.  We had never been and we knew it would be hard to take her and Grant given her medical condition.  We had some stipulations of course because in all things, we knew what was best.  We asked to stay close to the park.  We had kids who napped and driving back and forth wasn’t an option.  She wanted to go Trick or Treating there so we got tickets to the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween.  She wanted to meet princesses oh and we forgot to mention, Grandma is joining us on our trip.

Well… little did we know this Disney trip would ruin Disney forever.  J  Limo rides, rooms on the concierge floor at the Grand Floridian, overlooking the castle and every single thing her heart desired.  Grant was not left out of the festivities either – he was just as special.  Each day at the park was filled with meet and greets where she went to the front of every line with her brother.  They dressed up as Minnie and Mickey for Halloween and fell asleep together in a stroller every night.

Isabella was born to give sound bites.  She would hug you so tightly as we watched the fireworks each night say, “this is the best day of my life”, or “dreams really do come true Mommy!”.  I mean really.  It was crazy to watch because days before she could barely move in the hospital due to the toxic chemo.  It was like this trip brought her back to life in a way.

Disney became the thing we knew we could dangle in front of her.  I can’t tell you how many times we would unhook her IV in New York City, fly through Charlotte and pick up Grant (and eventually Sophia) and be on our way to Disney.  I would get calls from her oncologist while we were watching the parade by Cinderella’s castle with instruction on how to take her to the nearest hospital to check her blood counts.  We would walk through the park, occasionally finding a trashcan where she would hack up her latest side effect before getting on the next ride.  The girl was an animal.  She loved Disney – and it brought her back from sickness time and time again.

We even decided to take her there just a couple of weeks before she passed away. Make-A-Wish has made this place the one place in the world that brought her the most happiness.  We saw the impact that a wish trip had on her mental and physical state, as well as the rest of us.  It made miracles happen for us – so many times.

Make-A-Wish didn’t just give her a Disney trip.  It gave her some of the BEST days of her life and some of the best memories of mine.  For this reason, I can’t think of a better gift than to honor another girl’s wish on what would have been Isabella’s 13th birthday.  If she were here today, I know it would be her wish to pass this experience on to another child.   So that is what we will do for her.

Let’s Become a WishMaker Together in Honor of Isabella

Make-A-Wish granted Isabella her wish and gave her the best days of her life.  Make-A-Wish also gave her family the best memories of theirs.  The positive impact wishes give to kids and their families are invaluable.  

There is a girl fighting cancer, Sydney, who is 13 years old and wishes to visit the Harry Potter museum in London. We can’t think of a better gift than to honor another girl’s wish on what would have been Isabella’s 13th birthday.

Please donate to help make Sydney’s wish come true.  Donations of all values will help us collectively reach the $6,000 fundraising goal by March 31.

DONATE HERE

*Donations made to this campaign are a gift to the mission of Make-A-Wish. Each contribution will be pooled with other gifts to grant the wish of the child shown above or of other eligible children. Costs shown are estimates. All wishes listed will be granted.