Raising cancer awareness

July 26, 2013 10:22 am

Isabella continues to raise money for cancer-related organizations, including Bikers Fighting Cancer and Relay for Life. (Courtesy photo)
Isabella continues to raise money for cancer-related organizations, including Bikers Fighting Cancer and Relay for Life. (Courtesy photo)

Relay for Life team member sparks hope in battle against the disease 

Isabella Evans fought cancer and won, and now she’s doing her best to help others survive the disease. She’s the co-captain of a Relay for Life team, helps raise money for Bikers Fighting Cancer and is instrumental in getting the Kids-Heal program started in Baker City. 

She is 13, and her giggles and smiles make it hard to imagine how sick she was two years ago.

“Dr. Stork didn’t think she was going to make it,” says Cherie Evans, Isabella’s mother.

She was flown by air ambulance to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital on Feb. 18, 2011, and diagnosed with T-cell leukemia.

But her’s had a mutation that had been categorized only eight months before.

Here are numbers to consider: a count of 50,000 white blood cells is considered bad.

Isabella’s count peaked at 400,000.

She didn’t respond to the initial treatment, so Dr. Linda Stork prescribed a drug treatment still in the study phases.

It worked.

Then, on July 5, 2011, Isabella had a stem cell transplant to replace her blood with donor blood.

July 5 was her two-year post-transplant anniversary.

“She got a clean bill of health,” Cherie says.

That same assessment at the five-year mark means doctors consider her cured.

However, she is a transplant patient, so must keep yearly appointments to make sure her own blood hasn’t taken over the donor’s.

As her parents, Cherie and Doug, recount most of her story, Isabella sits on the couch, swinging her legs and fiddling with the sunglasses perched on her head.

Compare that image with a girl who Skyped her elementary class back when she was undergoing treatment at Doernbecher. As her daughter grew stronger, she Skyped less. Cherie finally asked the reason.

The explanation makes your eyes well with tears — Isabella wanted to Skype often because she thought she would die. As she got better, she knew she’d return to see her classmates and friends.

Isabella has been busy in the last two years.

She participated in the 2012 Relay for Life in Baker City, and is co-captain of a team this year. She was also asked by the Kiwanis Club to speak at a fundraiser for Doernbecher.

“Dr. Stork said my job was to make them cry,” Isabella says with a grin. 

In March of this year, she was part of a project called “Voices of Childhood Cancer,” when NPR’s StoryCorps staff talked to Isabella and Frank Etxaniz, who founded the Children’s Healing Art Project (CHAP) to bring art into hospitals.

Etxaniz is the founder of Kids-Heal, a “Health Education Arts Laboratory” designed to improve the physical and creative health of children. The program includes education on nutrition (students learn how to prepare healthy food), art, and information on different health issues, taught by children.

Baker City is the first place for Kids-Heal, thanks to Etxaniz’s connection with Isabella.

Currently the program is at Baker Middle School and South Baker Intermediate. They hope to expand to Brooklyn Primary.

In addition to all this, Isabella is collecting cans for Camp Ukandu, a week-long camp for children currently undergoing cancer treatment or who are within two years of their last treatment.

“You have people who understand what you went through,” she said.

Donations for Ukandu can be dropped off at Random Resales and Riches, which is owned by Isabella’s parents.

This shop is also serving as the “hub” for Kids-Heal fundraisers.