Little Isabella was diagnosed with PreB-ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia) four days after Christmas 2019. She was just four years old.
The family met Fight Cancer Foundation when they needed to relocate six hours away from home to Melbourne. Isabella needed treatment at The Royal Children’s Hospital and the family needed a place to stay. Home became ‘The Holiday House’ - a Fight Cancer Foundation apartment minutes away from the hospital. The family - mum Maria, dad Sam and Isabella’s twin sister Alessandra had to relocate to Melbourne for 11 months during Isabella’s treatment.
“This has been an incredibly challenging journey for all of us in so many ways - but especially for Isabella – many letdowns, sadness, not understanding what was going on,” says mum Maria.
“But as time went by, she certainly became a stronger little girl with persistence, determination and strength. “Isabella dealt with her treatment like an adult. She had many physical challenges – especially her appearance. She lost the ability to walk – I carried her whenever she needed to be somewhere. She couldn’t talk – she was so drained – so we had a special sign language between us.
“She lost her hair twice in 12 months and we had to feed her via a nasal gastric tube for 14 months as she was not eating and barely drinking.
“But despite all of this, her motto was – ‘I am going to kick leukaemia in the butt, mum.’"
The family was able to stay in Fight Cancer Foundation accommodation near The Royal Children’s Hospital during Isabella’s treatment.
The family was invited to share their story at Fight Cancer Foundation’s flagship gala event ‘Red Ball Melbourne’ in September this year at The Palladium at Crown.
Maria spoke of the family’s harrowing and stressful journey of uncertainty and anxiety and the strength and determination of her little four-year old to ‘kick leukaemia in the butt.’
“Her twin sister Alessandra stayed by her side every step of the way. She would lay beside Isabella on the couch or in bed and play with her when Isabella had the energy. They always dressed up in Paw Patrol costumes, Elsa and Anna costumes, Toy Story costumes or PJ masks costumes (like the little super-heroes they were) – never a dull moment.
“Ever since they learned to talk, they call each other ‘sissi’ – no one else does – it just marks the closeness they have shared since they were born.”
“We will always be grateful to Fight Cancer Foundation for our apartment. It was clean, spacious, safe and self-contained. Having this available to us took away the stress and worry of where to stay in Melbourne during what became a stressful and lengthy treatment journey for our four year old.
“We named our apartment ‘The Holiday House’ – our new home away from home and Isabella and Alessandra just loved the space and especially the balcony – a new concept to them both. Our apartment was our second home. We literally left our home on 30th December 2019 – the day after Isabella was diagnosed – and returned home mid-November 2020.
“I will never forget the day I met Vicki from Fight Cancer Foundation and saw ‘The Holiday House’. I immediately felt comfortable and knew that this was the place for our family to stay.
“We are also grateful that the accommodation centre was walking distance from The Royal Children’s Hospital which made it possible for us to walk to our appointments and it was so comforting to be so close to the hospital due to the risk of Isabella becoming unwell with high temperatures and we needed to be at the hospital within 30 minutes. And this always happened between 1am and 3am. Sam stayed at ‘The Holiday House’ with Alessandra while I took Isabella to hospital.
“I am truly grateful that Sam and I have been able to ride this storm together – it has really tested our relationship as a couple and as parents. Our stress levels have been extremely different and extraordinarily high. We have dealt with an enormous amount of emotional rollercoaster rides. Hopefully we can sit on the Ferris wheel for a while now and enjoy the view.
“Every day we would pray to get to the finish line of Isabella’s treatment.”
“On the 19th of April this year, Isabella had her final chemotherapy and rang the bell at The Royal Children’s Hospital with excitement for what marked two years and four months of treatment."
She has finished treatment and is in remission.
“The accommodation centre and Fight Cancer Foundation were a godsend to our family – helping us through one of the toughest journeys of our lives.
“From our family to you and yours – we thank you for your support for Fight Cancer Foundation and other families like ours.” Maria.
Thank you for helping families like Isabella’s as they look forward to a very special Christmas.