Izabella Sharkey, Retinoblastoma

3 Years Old at Diagnosis

Izabella SharkeyOn Tuesday, January 28, 2014, I took Izabella (Izzy) for her three year checkup. It was the first time they performed an eye test. Although we did not know at the time, Izabella was peeking with her “good eye,” and she passed. It wasn’t until our pediatrician looked at her eyes with light that she saw something different. She referred us to an ophthalmologist the following Monday.

Izabella’s father, David, and I couldn’t wait so I decided to do our own eye test at home. It was pretty clear that Izabella had little to no vision in her right eye. In a panic, David, called his best friend’s father who is an eye doctor. David told the doctor everything, and he urged us to come in the next day. During our visit, he sadly told us what he expected the problem to be – retinoblastoma. He said Izabella had a huge tumor in her right eye. David and I weren’t even aware at the time this meant cancer. The doctor made an appointment for us at Wills Eye Hospital for Monday, David’s birthday.

Over the weekend, we did a lot of research. Almost all of the treatments seemed to lead to “removal of the eye.” At our appointment on Monday, the ophthalmologists confirmed Izabella’s diagnosis of unilateral-retinoblastoma. The doctor said the tumor had probably been forming since shortly after her birth and that her vision was already past saving in her right eye. We were told that radiation and chemotherapy may only create more time for the cancer to spread without improving Izabella’s vision. David and I broke down but also made a promise to each other that we would remain brave and positive. We did not want our Izabella to be scared, and we understood that with surgery, she would have a “normal” life.

We decided the best thing to do would be to remove the eye. On February 6, her right eye was removed during an outpatient procedure. Our Izabella was amazing. She never once cried. She did everything the doctors and nurses told her to do. She wore patches with no problem while her eye socket healed. She has since had a prosthesis made that matches her left eye. I’m happy to share that she has undergone MRIs and evaluations under anesthesia all showing her to be cancer free! Izabella has had no real issues with not having vision in her right eye. She wears protective glasses to keep her left eye safe.

Izabella SharkeyToday, Izabella loves learning at school, dancing, pretending to be a princess, and dressing up. She also enjoys everything from the “Ninja Turtles” to the “Wizard of Oz” to “My Little Pony.” My Izabella is smart, kind, sweet, brave and beautiful. She is the toughest person I know, my hero.

I found CureSearch through a moms group on Facebook. I instantly felt like I found something productive to do instead of falling into a depression. Not only was I helping spread awareness about children’s cancer but I was able to connect with families who understand what we went through.

I recently put together a huge team, “Peace Love Izzy,” which raised over $3,000 for CureSearch’s Walk at the Philadelphia Zoo this past November. I had a great time, and it was amazing seeing all of the children enjoying life together. I think that supporting CureSearch gives hope to those of us seeking a cure for children’s cancer while bringing happiness to all cancer families!

Brandy Isom
Mother of Izabella
CureSearch Supporter

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