Family’s Resilience Rises to Outmatch Untreatable Cancer

By Patrick McGee

The Days’ Glenn Heights home looks busy with typical family life. There’s a playroom full of toys, a refrigerator full of family photos and a wine rack full of plastic tumblers. But the Days are no ordinary family. With a daughter who has cancer that cannot be treated, they have their own philosophy on life and how to deal with adversity.

Video courtesy | Mike Leslie

We very much have the attitude that your circumstances don’t define you,” Leslie Day said. “There’s no sense in wallowing in it; it doesn’t make it any better.”

Her daughter, Isabella, has a tenacious form of neuroblastoma that has resisted all treatment. Chemotherapy started to shrink the tumor, but then it stopped shrinking. A surgeon was able to remove most, but not all of it. Radiation is not possible because the tumor is wrapped around nerve bundles and her aorta.

It is unclear what the future holds for Isabella – so the second grader plunges forward with the things she enjoys: playing with her sisters, with her friends at church and with her Barbie dolls. She wants to learn how to play the drums … and the guitar … and the piano. She wants to be a doctor – and a veterinarian.

Only 7 years old, she’s adopted her parents’ philosophy of trusting God and accepting whatever the future brings.

“If we beat it, that would be good, but if we don’t beat it that would be fine to me,” she said.

Mrs. Day and her husband, Tim, feel confident that every option has been pursued at Children’s Health. Isabella has been a patient at Children’s since the tumor was found by her primary pediatrician when she was 9 months old.

The Days’ confidence in Children’s grew as they saw tremendous expertise and caring unfurl around Isabella. Children’s prestige places it in the Children’s Oncology Group, which surveys patients’ every possible option throughout the nation’s medical centers. This network brought Isabella to New York in November where a highly specialized surgeon was able to remove more than 90 percent of the tumor.

Some nerve damage from the operation was inevitable because of the lengthy tumor’s winding, anaconda-like grip on nerve bundles. Isabella is relearning how to walk, and her parents are careful not to let her sit on furniture that she may fall off of. An MRI scan on Monday brought some good news showing most of the tumor is gone.

“We understand how fragile life is, and we don’t know what will happen one day to another,” Mr. Day said, explaining that they embrace life and every chance to raise money to fight cancer.

The couple’s 16-year-old daughter, Anna, has raised a stunning $22,000 from bake sales.

“It helped me be able to work with all this, knowing that I am able to help other kids like my sister,” Anna said. “She’s just really brave, she’s my hero.”


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