Isaac is the baby of his family, the third child his parents wanted for so long. He adores his older siblings, 13-year-old Matthew and 15-year-old Alyssa. Being separated from them was one of the hardest parts of cancer treatment for this loving little boy.
Isaac came to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital the day after his third birthday, for treatment of a rare blood cancer called juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia. To survive, he needed a bone marrow transplant. And his own big sister was able to give Isaac — and the whole family — hope for his cure.
Many people who need a transplant will not find a progenitor cell match among their family members, but Alyssa was an optimal match for Isaac’s transplant. She became his donor in October 2016. “She was very nervous, but she is an incredible blessing, and she’s an incredible kid,” said their mother, Tiffany. “It made her very sick that day, but she said she’d do it again. She is a miracle to all of us. The only thing that didn’t match up for the transplant was their blood types, so about three weeks after transplant, his blood type switched to hers. Now he has her blood type.”
Isaac has been doing well post-transplant and has been able to return home to his family.
“He told me, ‘Mom, I’ll miss St. Jude,’” said Tiffany. “And I told him, ‘You know, we’re going to come back for visits, and we’re still going to see the doctors. We just don’t have to stay.’ He was so ready to go home, and yet I think St. Jude becomes a part of you; it becomes a part of who you are and your experience. It’s been a life-changing experience in the most humbling of ways.”
Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. Tiffany said, “The medical care itself would be more than what most anyone could do financially, and then we didn’t have to worry about housing, we didn’t have to worry about food, we didn’t have to worry about any of those things, and we got to focus on Isaac. And it has been incredible.”