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Isabel Rita

  • Ganglioglioma

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Isabel (Izzy) is a 6-year-old firecracker. She’s a happy little girl who is not afraid to assert herself with confidence. She loves music, singing and getting a laugh out of her family.

In September 2014, Izzy was diagnosed with a ganglioglioma, a spinal cord tumor, after her parents noticed stiffness in her neck.

Her parents recall the moment the neurosurgeon’s physician’s assistant entered their hospital room and with tears in his eyes told them that their 12-month-old little girl has a tumor wrapped around her spinal cord. They had just celebrated her first birthday with visions of what may come her second year of life: walking and exploring the world around her like most one-year-olds do. But on that day, when they heard the words, “it’s a tumor,” all those hopes came crashing down and they went into survival mode.

Izzy underwent a ten-hour surgery to relieve some of the pressure the tumor was putting on her delicate spinal cord. She had 42 chemotherapy treatments that wreaked havoc on her little body, weakening her immune system, causing hair loss, a number of gastrointestinal issues and neuropathy in her extremities. Through it all she always found a way to be a playful and happy little girl.

The surgery and the tumor also left her unable to sit up on her own and weakness especially on the left side of her body. She began physical and occupational therapies at the same time she began chemo to regain her strength and learn how to crawl and walk.

True to her fighting spirit, Izzy took her first independent steps in January 2016, the day before her last chemo infusion.

The combination of remaining tumor and surgery left Izzy with a hunched back and scoliosis. To correct the curvatures caused by these two conditions, Izzy endured a total of 164 hours of halo gravity traction over the course of 3 weeks in the hospital this past June. Upon discharge Izzy was placed in an upper body cast to maintain the improvement obtained through therapy. She’s been in the cast for almost 5 months now, but will have it taken off just in time for ring in the new year!

Remarkably, Izzy participated in the ALSF End Childhood Cancer Walk/Run last month in Philadelphia and crossed the Kids' Dash finish line, all on her own!

Izzy continues to recover from surgery—and is determined to keep moving forward, one step at a time.

Updated November 2019

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