From Teen Cancer Survivor to Fundraising Powerhouse

After a battle with leukemia, 15-year-old Isabella became a passionate advocate for pediatric cancer funding.

After a battle with leukemia, 15-year-old Isabella became a passionate advocate for pediatric cancer funding.

As a high school freshman, Isabella went from being a typical teen to a leukemia patient. Now, as a survivor, she’s taken on yet another role: fundraiser.

“I want to advocate for more funding,” Isabella says. “If there was more money to fight pediatric cancer, there could be better technology and more research, and more hope to find cures.”

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals share the same goal. This September, the inaugural Be Gold campaign is rallying community partners and local businesses to raise $1 million in support of our innovative pediatric cancer research and critical services for kids.

For Isabella, the cancer battle started when a large bruise mysteriously appeared on her leg in May 2015. Soon after, she got a cut that wouldn’t stop bleeding. Then her temperature spiked, her nose started bleeding, and she coughed up blood, all in the span of a weekend. 

A visit to the local hospital in Fairfield revealed that these symptoms were serious, and Isabella’s mother, Dianne, was advised to take the 15-year-old to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland immediately. There, tests revealed that Isabella had acute promyelocytic leukemia, a rare form of the disease that causes severe symptoms and requires immediate medical intervention.

Isabella was treated at our Oakland campus for a month, receiving chemotherapy and battling complications like fluid in her lungs, pneumonia, blood clots, and an infection. 

“We knew she was in the best place possible, which was comforting,” says Dianne. “Her doctors and nurses treated us like family. That made it much easier to go through this, since we had to spend so much time away from home.”

After being discharged, Isabella’s fight wasn’t over. For eight months, she returned to a clinic every weekday for chemotherapy. She finished treatment on December 31, starting the new year with a clean slate. “Watching the last bit of the chemo go into the IV was amazing,” Isabella says. “A whole chapter of my life ended so I could start a new one.”

Back at school, Isabella delivered a passionate speech on pediatric cancer funding, and she plans to lead a campaign among her fellow students to raise awareness. This goal is shared by her whole family: Her brothers wore gold shoelaces last September to highlight pediatric cancer; her older sister has registered as a bone marrow donor; and her father, Mike, has started donating platelets.

“Working toward something positive gives us a way to move forward,” Dianne says.

Isabella’s experience has also influenced her goals for the future. Now a high school senior, she’s considering becoming an oncology nurse so she can help kids facing the same struggle she did.

Want to join Isabella’s fight? Learn more about Be Gold and join the campaign on social media with #BeGold4Kids.
 

After a battle with leukemia, 15-year-old Isabella became a passionate advocate for pediatric cancer funding.