Written by Erin Santos, Isabella’s Mommy & President of The Isabella Santos Foundation
For years I wanted to run from the Foundation. It was something I was pushed into and I loved what it was accomplishing, but I needed more in my life. After she passed away it was hard for me to do the work. It felt meaningless and silly. The main reason for all of this was Isabella and it just didn’t feel right asking if my cause was gone. So I started to step away. I was able to bring an employee in and keep things afloat so that I could figure out what I was doing with my life while the Foundation could continue to grow slowly.
I went back to work. I really just stuck my toe in. I took a part-time technology-consulting job where no one really knew of my story or of Isabella. It was refreshing to be around people that didn’t hold me with white gloves, worried at any moment that I would crack. I could go to this job and do something completely outside of her and it was just what I needed. I realized that I was good at something again that didn’t involve taking care of a child, telling a sob story or asking for a donation. It was just a normal job, and I loved it.
Then something happened. We had a meeting set up to talk with Levine’s Children’s Hospital about funding research here in Charlotte. Just a casual conversation about where the funds we just gave them should be placed and what future needs they may have. We sat at a conference room table with other Foundations, heads of the giving department and one of the pediatric oncologists that I knew from Isabella’s time during treatment. As our discussions began, I noticed something about myself. I was falling back into my old-self. I was energized, passionate, knowledgeable and commanding. I couldn’t get enough of the information and it began to feel like the only people talking in the room were the oncologist and myself.
The current state of Neuroblastoma, the clinical trials, the funding, the hosptials… I couldn’t get enough of it. I was thirsty for the knowledge and I could feel myself coming alive again. It became something different for me being in these conversations the second time around. Maybe it was because I no longer had a life on the line. It took the emotion out of the cause and made it just a little less personal for me. The piece that it took out was just enough to draw me back into it. I was charged up and at that point I realized. This is my purpose.
People search their entire life for their purpose. Some never find it. But here I was, a couple of year under 40 and I was looking at mine straight in the face. All these years of running from it, only to find out it was what I was put on this earth to do. It’s been two months since that conference room discussion and now it’s all I think about. I want to be involved with every single aspect of the Foundation. I want to spend the rest of my life figuring out how to make this little idea of ours into something that is known worldwide. I want to really see how much money we can raise if I devote all of my time to it. What could we really accomplish if we were funding this cause with every thing we had?
I’m making it my mission to figure that out.
I want to come back and I can’t wait to get started.