When devastating news came to Isabella’s family in 2014, she was only 4 ½ years old and diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. “Her immune system was completely wiped out, and she was unable to walk due to steroid induced muscle weakness. Because of the intense treatment and the effects it had on Isabella’s immune system, we became very isolated. We had to be extremely careful about being out in public or around more than just our immediate family due to exposure to germs” said Isabella’s mom.
In the span of Isabella’s 2 ½ years of treatment, she endured 17 spinal taps with chemotherapy, 29 port injected chemotherapies and has taken oral chemotherapy every single night. In October 2017, Isabella joyfully rang the bell at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC signifying the end of her treatments!
Isabella’s mom shared, “the hardest part of the journey for us was feeling like no one really understood what we were going through, and we didn’t necessarily have anyone to talk to outside of the hospital. [In joining Lending Hearts], we were able to interact with other kids and families that truly understood. No one looked at Isabella like she was different. There was an immediate comfort level on her part. Lending Hearts focuses on smiles and happiness. Allowing kids to just be kids and have fun and not have to worry.”
Through Lending Hearts’ free social and emotional expression programs, Isabella’s family has connected with other families dealing with similar battles. For the past six years, Lending Hearts has worked to provide social and emotional support to children with cancer and their families. Through the many community events, monthly art therapy sessions, educational seminars and UP Street, Lending Hearts was able to provide a community for Isabella and her family and give them a safe space to turn to for added support.
In 2017, Lending Hearts expanded programming to include UP Street, a complete pediatric oncology wellness program that includes holistic activities supporting mind, body and overall wellbeing. UP Street provides free wellness services to patients and families at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Services aid in improving quality of life while enduring the impact of treatment. “UP Street has also been extremely helpful in offering alternative options to help Isabella better handle the anxiety that comes with port access, lumbar punctures and chemo.
We have had many opportunities to take advantage of UP Street activities to make treatment easier and less stressful.”
Isabella is an extraordinary little girl for whom we at Lending Hearts are extremely proud. We are here to continue to provide that community and support Isabella and her family have come to know. They are an inspiration to other families who are on their own journeys.