Isaac Franco was a healthy baby, but as a toddler, he became lethargic and stopped wanting to eat. His low energy and recurring fevers meant multiple trips to the doctor’s office with no answers.

When his skin got really pale in November 2016, the family made another appointment and Isaac’s mom, Daisy Franco, insisted on a blood test even though she had been previously told it was likely a virus. The staff ran a Complete Blood Count.

That afternoon, she got a call about Isaac’s labs. The nurse practitioner told her to write some numbers down, pack a bag and take Isaac to UC Davis Children’s Hospital immediately. When she hung up the phone, she turned to her mom and said, “I think Isaac may have leukemia.”

When the Francos arrived that night, Daisy remembers how welcoming the staff was. She shared her fears about cancer and the team reassured her that whatever the diagnosis, her son was in the best hands.

Eight to 10 doctors and nurses were hurriedly coming in and out of the room as the family waited for more results. When she got the official diagnosis, Daisy’s heart sank.

Isaac Franco

“I was numb,” Franco said. “When I finally started to cry, Isaac grabbed the tissue box and my baby wiped away my tears. From that moment, I knew we were going to get through this.”

The official diagnosis? Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Isaac’s treatment began in November 2016. He would spend his second birthday at the children’s hospital and was admitted again within weeks. Isaac’s cancer treatment would continue for years.

During that time, Isaac was often hospitalized and made countless trips to the pediatric infusion center at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Franco says her son not only received amazing medical care, but he also got the emotional support he needed. She credits Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department programs like music therapy and interactions with the facility dog for making the treatment much more tolerable.

“He loves Huggie the facility dog and even learned to play drums while he was there,” Franco said. “This was our home for three years. They are like our family. I can’t thank the team enough for helping Isaac make the best of this time.”

Throughout treatment, Isaac remained the brave and empathetic boy who had dried his mom’s tears at just 2 years old. Daisy says it’s what got her through her son’s illness.

“He had IV chemo through a port and had to take oral chemo two to three times a day for three years and never fought it. He had to have lumbar punctures, too, and I was told he handled it better than most adults,” Franco said. “He is a strong, resilient boy who wouldn’t be taken down by this.”

In November 2019, Isaac had his last treatment and remains cancer-free to this day. Isaac’s prognosis is good, and he loves playing football, watching the Raiders play and going to the ocean.

“We didn’t know what would happen, but here we are,” Franco said. “Isaac is the same sweet boy with the big heart. He endured and so did we. We couldn’t be prouder of him and more grateful to UC Davis for saving his life.”

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