Meet Our Hero, Izabella

Jan 29, 2021 | Hero

Bella with dolphin





In May of 2016 13-year-old lzabella Phoenix Eckhardt from Holstein, NE was diagnosed with a rare Pineoblastoma brain tumor. It was located in the center of her brain. It had prevented the spinal fluid from draining in her brain and her doctor noticed her eyes had started to bulge leading to her life-saving diagnosis. With her tumor growing from the size of a dime to the size of a quarter in the four days it took to get the biopsy back, it was urgent to do surgery. The 8 ½ hour surgery required the doctor to detach the tumor from the six major blood vessels that provide blood to the part of the brain that controls major organs. It was successful and she experienced only minimal side effects post-surgery. She also had stem cells removed to assist her treatment plan later if needed. Izabella then headed to San Diego for Proton Radiation Therapy of her brain and spine. It is a targeted therapy and decreased her risk of secondary cancer and damage to her other organs. Upon completion of the radiation treatment, Izabella returned to Omaha for the remainder of her chemotherapy. While her immune system recovered with the help of the stem cells, she stayed the course with her chemotherapy.

Izabella was in remission for six years and had just graduated high school in May 2022 when she learned her cancer had returned. After starting treatment in which the side effects nearly took her life, Izabella and her family decided to stop treatment and enjoy the time she had left. Her medical team and family continued to desperately search for a better treatment that could help her, but sadly, it wasn’t to be.

Through it all Izabella kept her rockstar attitude and did all she can to help raise awareness of the critical need for research funding so treatments can be developed to help other kids with brain cancer. Her goal was to be a positive influence on all childhood brain tumor fighters to fight as hard as she does every day. Izabella’s story was highlighted at the 10th Annual Team Jack Gala in February 2023.  She left the crowd with, “Please let my actions in this fight make an impact so big that it ripples for decades until the cure is found. Please do not forget me.”

Izabella passed away on June 8th, 2023 at just 19 years old. She was loved and missed by so many. Click here to read her obituary. 

Here is a video of Izabella speaking at the Gala: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mG5aItP4Hg&t=183s


To make a donation to fund child brain cancer research in memory of Izabella, click the red donate button at the top of the page.