Isobel's Gift

Isobel was a beautiful 4 year old girl who sadly died just six months after being diagnosed with a brain stem tumour.

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Isobel was only with us for 4 years and 10 months. She was born in October 2004 and died peacefully in August 2009. Isobel’s life was cut short by a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma – or as we think of it a monster. This type of brain tumour is a merciless killer which can kill in months and we are powerless to stop it. Brain cancers kill more children than any other form of cancer – yet the funding for research is pitiful.

The symptoms are often missed or attributed to other causes. In Isobel’s case she had her first overt symptom and was diagnosed in 48 hours, six months later she died – her treatment perhaps slowed its progress for a little while, but the tumour progressed and won.

Isobel lived her life to the full, enjoying every day and all the people she met. She was always full of life and was a real character. She and her mummy Joanne had a relationship that was so complete it made you jealous. When they were together you could almost feel the connection. But Isobel had a rare gift she made everybody she was with feel special, and could make them do exactly what she wanted – not that she ever took too much advantage.

Isobel loved animals her dog Molly and her cats – her favourite being Mitzy who followed her everywhere, and now wanders about looking for her friend. Even though she said he was an alien, she loved bath time with her daddy. She went to nursery and had just started to go to school on an afternoon. She and her friends went swimming and to baby ballet, and together they had lots of fun every week-end.

She had wanted two things – to be five years old and to go to school full time, she was unable to do either. She came home from nursery one Tuesday evening and the staff had noticed a problem with one of her eyes. Friday morning she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and people were saying she had weeks to live – no hope, no treatment, nothing ...... just despair.

The consultants at Leeds General Infirmary attempted an operation to remove the tumour from her brain stem. Isobel skipped to the operating theatre, five hours later and they had only succeeded in taking a biopsy. Isobel was up and about within four hours and home the following morning. No stopping her!


Following her unsuccessful surgery Isobel was referred to Paediatric Oncology St. James’s Hospital Leeds. She underwent seven weeks of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. She never complained – in fact she ran to the radiotherapy sessions treating it as fun - nor needed any sedation for her treatment or MRI scans – she trusted her daddy and when he asked her to, she just did it. When giving her blood samples she was always happy do this as she thought she was helping other little boys and girls who were poorly. Her symptoms had initially worsened with weakness to her right side, but following an encouraging MRI scan things looked hopeful for her to enjoy at least a period with her family.

She lived every day without any let up – doing normal things with her mummy, daddy, and grandparents. She was given her own donkey by a friend, and kept up her swimming and dancing. Early in August she regained her movement and her eye moved back – confirmed by a visit to the hospital optician!!! Unfortunately this was Tuesday and she had to go into hospital because she was being sick and had become dehydrated. Wednesday through the night she had a brain stem stroke and was taken to intensive care. She was transferred to Martin House Hospice, Boston Spa on Thursday. Isobel passed away on the Saturday morning in her mother’s arms, with her family around her.

Isobel died because little is known about these tumours and the money spent on research is tiny. She was a happy, lively, bundle of energy up to a few days before her death, many children suffer horrendous symptoms and agonising illness. Isobel was spared this, but like hundreds of others she should not have died.

A light went out of our lives that day – this should not happen to anyone else.
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