It all started with an email asking for prayers for a sick little girl. Never did I expect the impact this sweet child would make on my life and the life of my family.
Isabella was four when I received an email from a friend asking me to pray for a little girl who had been living with Neuroblastoma for two years. She had beaten many an odd and now was battling another relapse. The email directed me to a CaringBridge website that told the story of a child who was diagnosed with this wretched disease at age two and had been fighting it with all of the strength that a two year old possessed.
The pictures showed a spirited child with short, auburn hair and clear blue eyes that told you she was well beyond her years. Happiness flowed from her very being; you felt it looking at her. Though Isabella was so very sick you could see she would not let it get her down. This amazed me, with the odds stacked against her she was determined to win this uphill battle and do it with the grace and perseverance that most adults don’t possess. I was in, right away she got to me and I was going to be part of the army that was fighting for this little girl’s life.
Isabella, Ib or Isabella Jo as her parents referred to her, had a love for all things fancy. Princesses, manicures and pedicures, pink frilly dresses and elegant hats. Disney was one of her favorite places, especially Cinderella’s castle, of course. Her mother would tell stories of their trips to NYC for her treatment and how they would stop off at the L’Oreal counter for mini makeovers and then go to the American Girl Store for much needed accessories. Through your tears you had to smile because with all that this child was going through she still lived and lived to the fullest.
I never met Isabella but felt that I knew her well. She was a part of our family; my children knew her and asked about her daily. We read her CaringBridge site together. She was in our nightly prayers. I celebrated the remissions of her disease and felt my heart break with the posts that informed us that “it” was back. With each entry that Ib’s mother wrote I marveled at her strength and grace and saw where Ib got her spirit.
Ib lost her battle on June 28, 2012. Though I never met her, Isabella left a mark on my life that will be with me forever. She taught me that you never, ever give up no matter how bleak the circumstances, that manicures and pedicures and a slice of good pizza can make you feel better and that every girl has the right to feel like a princess. Ib was a gift and I thank her family for sharing her story with us.
One of my favorite pictures of Ib was of her running on the beach in a little blue chambray dress and white cardigan. Her back is to the camera and her arms are stretched out as if she is flying. Though I cannot see her face I know that she is smiling. It is how I picture her now. Free. Running with her friends that have gone before her, laughing as they chase the tide as it ebbs and flows. I can almost hear her laughing, that unbridled laugh children have that shows , at that moment, that all is right with the world.
**I wrote this piece just a few days after Isabella lost her fight with Neuroblastoma on June 28th, 2012.
In memory of Isabella and to continue her fight to help others please visit the Isabella Santos Foundation Facebook page.