HOPKINTON – Like any other 3-year-old child, Izzy Handley loves Spongebob and Cinderella. She adores animals and books and swimming in the pool. But for the past seven months, Izzy’s life has grown to include more than visits to the farm and cartoon time. It’s included the placement of a port in her chest, numerous chemotherapy treatments and days where she’s too tired to do much of anything. On January 29 of this year, Izzy, who is the daughter of Jessica Buehring, was diagnosed with leukemia.
“I was in shock,” said her grandmother, Billie Powell Buehring, upon hearing the diagnosis. She said they knew something was wrong when they took the toddler to the hospital but didn’t know what. The doctors ran some tests. “Her blood levels were so low, she was hardly alive,” Buehring said. “They told us ‘we think she has leukemia’. She had major surgery that first day and then numerous stages of testing over the next three or four days where we just had no idea what was going on.”
The testing was to determine what kind of leukemia Izzy had. “It turns out that it’s a very common form of childhood leukemia,” Buehring said. “It’s the most treatable of them all. But that’s the key word. It’s treatable but not necessarily curable.” Izzy went on to have bone marrow removed, blood transfusions and a spinal tap. They’ve not been able to explain to Izzy what is happening or why. “She wouldn’t understand,” Buehring said. “She never asks any questions. She’ll say she doesn’t feel good but she doesn’t grasp what’s going on. She’s still very happy and playful. And she’s a very polite baby. She always thanks the doctors and nurses on her visits.”
Buehring said that her daughter’s strength has been a key factor in her grand-daughter’s attitude. “She’s handling this a lot better than I would. She’s right on top of everything. She’s read up on everything.” The fear is there, of course, but they don’t let it show. “They had to take blood so many times they were blowing out her veins and she just kept screaming that she wanted to go home. I didn’t let myself cry. I didn’t want to scare her.”
Buehring said Izzy’s diagnosis came on the heels of mourning the loss of other local children to childhood cancer. “We were still feeling the pain of those families and the first few days after Izzy’s diagnosis, we did not see a light at the end of the tunnel. So many had been lost and now it was my grand-daughter. It didn’t seem real.”
Buehring’s friends and family have planned a “Fundraiser For Izzy” to be held on September 25 at Two Brothers in Voluntown, Connecticut, which will begin at 3:00. The cost is fifteen dollars per person and the event will include live music by Peter Weramy and an array of food donated by Hilltop Café and numerous individuals. A raffle will also be held and those who would like to donate cash, gift baskets, gift certificates or gently used items are encouraged to give what they can. “The fundraiser is to help with medical expenses that insurance doesn’t cover as well as other expenses that have incurred while my daughter has had to take so much time off from work.”
A motorcycle run will precede the event, beginning at Billy Hill’s Roadhouse in Richmond at 1:00. The one-and-a-half hour ride will go through the backroads of Rhode Island and Connecticut with no stops along the way, toward Two Brothers. Tickets can be purchased at Two Brothers, Billy Hill’s Roadhouse or through the Facebook page “Fundraiser For Isabelle”. The cost of beverages is not included in the ticket price.
“I’d like to see Izzy have a normal childhood,” Buehring said. “And learn something from this that can turn it into a positive experience. I hope something good can come out of it.”