For as long as Isaiah could remember in his 10 years on this earth, he wanted to go to Legoland. He asked, begged, pleaded for his mom to take him. Olga, a single mother, who worked days and nights to keep her family going and moving forward was so happy when she could finally take her two boys. It was just as great as Isaiah had imagined, right down to the crazy expensive pizza which was his favorite part. 

Just a couple months after they returned home both kids came down with ear infections and Olga took them to the doctor. Days later after all should have been well Isaiah was still in pain and Olga’s mother’s intuition wisely told her to go back. Two swollen lymph nodes and a few tests later revealed that Isaiah had AML Leukemia. Olga was stunned.

She called her family back in Puerto Rico, they all cried and grieved on the phone together because when something happens to one of them, it happens to all of them.

Each person feeling and carrying each other, this is the power of family. This is familia.

Isaiah is sitting with his mom who looks at him smiling
Photo & Story by Patience Salgado/Lens of Hope

A whole life upending whirlwind unfolded next, chemo started right away and with it a long road of treatment ahead. Olga was starting to feel overwhelmed one day when Isaiah stopped playing his game, looked up at her and very decisively said, “Mommy, I’m going to beat this cancer.” 

Full stop. At the age of 10, he knew, he felt his mom’s moment and told her the truth. This is familia. 

Isaiah is sitting with his older brother Samuel
Photo & Story by Patience Salgado/Lens of Hope

Shortly after the diagnosis, Samuel (15 years old), who was still reeling from tragically losing two older step brothers that same year, insisted that no matter what was happening he needed Olga to be honest with him. He wanted to know, he was finding his place in the family crisis. Samuel regularly Facetimed Isaiah at 5am before his school, listened in on meetings with doctors and walked his brother through a chemo treatment when Olga was exhausted and sleeping. 

This is familia. 

Infection struck and landed Isaiah into the pediatric intensive care unit, one organ failing and then another. Olga did what she knew to do and the only thing she could do. She prayed to God and sang over her baby boy. 

“Yo no sé por lo que estás atravesando, pero, acerca un milagro, se acerca un milagro.”
“I don’t know what you are going through, but a miracle is coming, a miracle is coming.”

She sang it over and over again, everyday, and she believed it.

This is familia.

Isaiah is playing a game called Bey Blades with his older brother
Photo & Story by Patience Salgado/Lens of Hope

When Olga’s mom got into a car accident, yet another complicated ICU stay came that was the scariest by far, her dad died with Isaiah too sick for her to go to the funeral, when everything that could go wrong did, a nurse, a social worker, and a beloved Conner’s Heroes staffer Erin surrounded her and Isaiah with so much support and love

This is familia.  

After all they faced, the truth had never been clearer. Olga had built this very family. A son that is a fighter to his core, another that knew just when to step in and out with care, a mother who knows what it means to believe and keep going long before cancer came and the greatest truth of all – that each person is needed, every member matters, because true family can’t work any other way.

When something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.

This is familia.

Isaiah is smiling at the camera standing with his arms crossed