‘Bella is lifting us up’: Family shares child’s cancer story to work toward a cure
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The wound is still fresh and the pain runs deep, but the Francesca family is choosing to speak life into their daughter’s legacy.
“I would like to lay in bed and curl up and have a day and just bawl, but something inside of me is not letting me,” said Chrissy Francesca.
Together, Mike, Chrissy, Jake and Olivia are turning adversity into advocacy, raising awareness about pediatric cancer.
“I feel like Bella is lifting us all up. She told us she’s going to teach the medical world something,” said Chrissy, Bella’s mom.
The Francescas are a resilient bunch, but when you see the vibrant, fun-loving spirit that is Bella - you understand why they fight.
“She has an old soul with music, but she was very hip to what’s going on now,” said Chrissy.
From Frankie Vallie and the Four season to Cardi B. to Lizzo to Earth Wind and Fire, Bella was filled with joy and positivity - even on her hardest days.
“If it was up to her, we’d still be making thank you videos,” her mom said.
In October last year, Bella started having leg pain.
For the next two months, she would have multiple hospital stays, see every doctor or specialist you can think of and still no definitive diagnosis.
Fast forward to December - her parents were fed up and pushed for an MRI.
They got a call from the doctor later that night.
“He said they found a spot. They think it’s cancer. I don’t know what else it could be, but we found out later she lit up like a Christmas tree,” said Chrissy.
The family says the journey to a diagnosis was frustrating.
Part of their advocacy is to encourage all healthcare workers to listen.
“Everything she said was to a tee and I mean, throughout the process, when they sent her home, she came back after Christmas with pain. They sent her home, and we would go back every time. She told them something was like, please don’t ask me. Listen to Bella. I don’t care if she’s 10 years old. Everything she’s telling you is spot on. And it was like pulling teeth originally to get them to listen,” said Chrissy.
Bella would fight the battle against leukemia and win.
“Bella only lasted seven months. She beat the cancer, though. She was in remission. After two months. So, she beat the cancer and then she gets a rare infection that VCU’s never seen,” said Chrissy. “He said in 50 years they’ve never seen it, they’ve only studied it.”
Bella passed on Aug. 7 from that rare infection. Donations made to the American Cancer Society are funding critical research to benefit kids just like Bella.
Doctors are evaluating the genetic causes of childhood cancer and creating better drugs that are less toxic to the kids and longer lasting.
Something the Francescas know the value of.
“I understand that the cure rate is high, but the stuff that these kids have to go through, especially in that one phase, when the counts drop and they become super sick, there’s got to be better drugs that can be developed. So those kids don’t have to go through that huge dip and huge change in life,” said Mike Francesca, Bella’s dad.
“I think by giving back, we can get the treatments so much more,” he said. “We find to where we can kill this, you know, this type of cancer without putting the kids through, you know, what they have to go through to come out the other side.”
The Francescas lost a big part of their family recently, and they’re sharing their story in hopes of working towards a cure.
You may not have known Bella personally, but you can identify with the innocence of a child’s smile.
Cancer doesn’t discriminate. In fact, more than 10,000 kids under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone.
Together, through donations, not a single child, not a single family, would have to deal with this unspeakable pain.
“She was right, she said she was going to teach the medical world, and she’s someone they’re going to learn from. And, you know, I wish it wasn’t her that had to be the lesson. But she is she’s giving people super strength all over,” her parents said.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can help fight cancer with a donation to the American Cancer Society as part of NBC12′s partnership with the Cattle Baron’s Ball.
While this year’s event is sold out, the community can still get involved in several ways to help the American Cancer Society:
- Purchase a $25 ticket for the car raffle
- Participate in the silent auction
- Make a donation online
Click/tap here for more information.
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