In September of 2015, Isabella Acierno was one of 14 students who were given tickets by the Mayor of New York City to see Pope Francis. During the presentation at City Hall, the Mayor made a point to praise the then 13-year-old’s resilience, for her on-going fight with a recurring brain tumor.
“Isabella exemplifies everything good about New York City,” said Mayor de Blasio. “She exemplifies the spirit, energy and strength that we are all so proud of as New Yorkers.”
Isabella is now 16-years-old and a sophomore at Notre Dame Academy in Staten Island. Each day she wakes up with part of that brain tumor that sits on the sagittal sinus. After an episode during a middle school basketball game which led to a full-blown seizure, “Bella” and her family soon learned that she would require immediate surgery for a slow-growing tumor called meningioma, one that Dr. Jeffrey Wisoff, pediatric neurosurgeon with Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, said occupied “about 20% of the cranial cavity on one side of her head.”
In late November of 2013, Dr. Wisoff preformed that surgery and removed more than 99% of the tumor; the part that remains was too dangerous to remove. As a result, Bella suffers from migraines but is leading a normal teenage life. Dr. Wisoff says, “that living with this type of brain tumor requires ongoing surveillance, which does impact a child’s life – it’s a bit like having a chronic disease.”
Now almost five years later, Bella is an excellent student with a GPA of 95 and is currently the captain of the JV volleyball team and this year’s MVP. She has an active social life and was elected to the student government and doesn’t let anything stand in her way – proving to her friends, family and community that you can live a full life WITH a brain tumor. Bella sees Dr. Wisoff every six months for regular appointments. Dr. Wisoff has Bella on a treatment plan and she has regular MRIs to make sure that the small part of the tumor is stable.