“Mom, it feels like there’s a chainsaw running through my leg.”
When 12-year-old Izzy spoke those words in the fall of 2020, her mom Erika realized that her daughter’s recent discomfort was far more then growing pains. A scan at the doctor’s office revealed a fracture running through the middle of the left side of Izzy’s pelvis, but it also revealed something worse: a fuzzy mass that turned out Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of cancer that forms in the bones and soft tissues of the body.
While it was a devastating diagnosis, Izzy was fortunate that the disease was found early. “Ewing’s sarcoma doesn’t show up in bloodwork, so it takes something like an injury to find it,” explained Erika. “We were very, very lucky to catch it when we did.”
Taking it All in Stride
Izzy’s intense treatment started with weeks of chemotherapy, followed by a major surgery to remove a chunk of her pelvis, then even more chemo. Her doctors said walking would be a challenge, running would be out of the question, and she’d have to use a walker for three months. Well, not if Izzy had anything to do with it! Within a week, she was off crutches, tackling physical therapy and keeping up with her homework while she was at it.
“I was just like, ‘This needs to be done, so let’s do it,’” she explained.
Finding Friendship—and Common Ground
In the midst of Izzy’s treatment, she was introduced to a very special person: JoyRx Music Specialist Emily. Over weekly video chats, the two talk about their shared love of music, Izzy’s violin (she’s been playing for three years) and her impressive vintage record collection (she’s a huge Blondie fan). Sometimes Emily gives Izzy a music lesson; other times, the two just hang out. Either way, it gives Izzy the emotional boost that Erika says her daughter desperately needs.
“I see a huge difference in her,” Erika said. “She gets very excited when Emily calls and there’s always a lot of laughter coming from upstairs. That’s really nice to hear.”
“It’s nice to have someone else that I can talk to,” added Izzy. “It’s not chemo related, it’s not cancer related, it’s just fun one-on-one time.”
Getting Away From it All
CCA also gave Izzy’s family the chance to recharge and reconnect with a trip to the Caring Cabin. Their visit got off to a bumpy start when Izzy suddenly had to return to the hospital, but they were able to return and take full advantage of all the peaceful retreat had to offer. Izzy’s favorite part? Exploring the local shops and paddling around on the lake with her friends—even though they nearly sunk the first time they went out!
“Someone had forgotten to put the plug in, so our boat was taking on a lot of water,” Izzy smiled. “Plus we found a little salamander that had hitched a ride with us. We were laughing so hard at the whole thing!”
Celebrating the Silver Linings
Izzy is now cancer-free, and she’s happy to be back in school and getting back to the things she loves best: hanging out with her friends, watching sci-fi movies, and riding her bike. While it’s been a tough journey, Izzy’s parents say they’re inspired by their daughter’s strength and grateful for the joyful memories they made along the way.
“I’m amazed by her drive and determination to get better,” said Izzy’s dad, Justin. “There aren’t many silver linings with cancer, but one of them is that it’s definitely made Izzy stronger. She now knows that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to.”
They say that CCA has been a silver lining as well.
“I would absolutely recommend CCA’s programs to other families going through a similar challenge,” said Erika. “You guys have found a way to help us feel joy again—and that’s something you definitely need to get through times like this.”
You can help more kids like Izzy experience the emotional benefits of JoyRx by making a donation today.
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