Pediatric cancer survivor thankful for health this Thanksgiving
HOLSTEIN, Neb. —
A strong, brave little girl is thankful to be healthy this Thanksgiving.
NTV News spoke with her Tuesday morning on why spending time with her family and friends is most important to her this year.
Izabella Voelker is a 13-year-old pediatric cancer survivor who was told last year she had 24 hours to live.
She is a bright-eyed, talkative little girl who has undergone a total of five operations since 2015.
"Basically if you cut it in half here, here, here it's in the exact middle. The very center of my head," said pediatric cancer survivor Izabella Voelker.
She was diagnosed with pineoblastoma, a rare form of pediatric cancer at age 12.
"I couldn't really be upset. I couldn't get anxious. I couldn't get angry. I couldn't have many emotional feelings because that would put pressure on the brain and I wouldn't survive," said Voelker.
"Once they found the tumor, the mass was in the middle of her brain in between her six major blood vessels," said Izabella's mother Miki Eckhardt.
She had an intense surgery where doctors said she had a five percent chance of survival.
"And of course I planned my funeral because I knew my sisters would need my mom and I didn't want her to have to deal with my funeral," said Voelker.
"It never really crossed my mind even with me being told that it was a five percent chance that she wasn't going to be in that five percent. She's never been one of those to ever not defy the statistics and she has over and over and over again with this," said Eckhardt.
Even if she did make it through surgery, Izabella was told she was going to be deaf, would only be able to see at eye level and would be in a coma.
"I wasn't scared to die if I did. I was scared that I would have side effects from afterwards if I made it out alive. I was also scared that if I didn't make it out what would happen to my siblings, how they would react. But I wasn't scared to die.," said Voelker.
Izabella is the second oldest of five siblings.
When she was diagnosed with cancer, both her parents stayed at home full time to take care of her and her siblings.
Fortunately, one non-profit stepped in to help with some bills.
"Obviously our house payment was a huge one. She said Angels Among Us is an organization that's able to help make some of those bigger payments because their foundation is able to provide $500 to families for 18 months," said Eckhardt.
Now that Izabella is in remission, she and her family are able to spend time together with nothing to worry about except getting better.
"There's so many blessings that we've had do to her cancer journey and we've got to meet some of the most amazing people in the world through this," said Eckhardt.
"This year I think will be a lot of fun because it will give us a chance to feel normal again. As normal as it can be of course but I'm a completely different person than I was a few years ago so I'm excited," said Voelker.
Izabella tells NTV she has matured a lot in the last year and is looking forward to spending time with her family on her Make-A-Wish trip to South Africa at the end of November.