As a tumor constricted Izibelle Sevigny’s lungs, making it harder to breathe, the 11-year-old was life flighted to Salt Lake City on Oct. 8.
Once at Primary Children’s Hospital, specialists diagnosed her with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer that most often affects children. Izi is cared for by her grandmother, Patty Sevigny, who worked night shifts at St. John’s Health and volunteered with Alpine Fire/EMS before her own illness forced her to retire to the care of her husband Isidore. Friends and relatives are rallying to support the Alpine family in their latest battle against a debilitating illness.
“They will be juggling frequent trips for treatments for Izi, while Isidore continues to work and take care of the other two grandchildren,” Jessica Sevigny, Izi’s aunt, wrote on GoFundMe. “This family has never asked for any help, but it’s time for us to show them the LOVE and SUPPORT from the community that they have been a part of for over 40 years.”
So far, friends and family have raised $7,560 of their $10,000 goal for #TeamIZI on GoFundMe, accessible at TinyURL.com/izibelle.
Izi is already starting to receive chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Sevigny said, a painfully common routine for a family plagued by disease.
Patty, now in her sixties, was diagnosed in 2004 with primary pulmonary hypertension and given a five-year life expectancy. Thanks to a successful double lung transplant, she survived.
Her daughter Rhoda, 25, was diagnosed with the same disorder in 2011 and died within weeks, leaving behind three young daughters.
Last year, Patty and Isidore were granted full custody of their granddaughters, Bryjitte, Tessa and Izibelle.
“Officially adopted and safe, the girls spent their first year since the passing of their loving mother with no worries, happy, and in a loving home,” Jessica Sevigny wrote.
In 2010, Jessica was dealt her own cancer diagnosis. The cervical disease didn’t take her life, but she lost the ability to have children. As such, seeing her sister’s children cared for is that much more heartwarming.
Isidore said it was a no-brainer.
“I mean, it was just the thing to do,” he said. “We loved those kids right from the start, and they’ve always loved us, so it worked out good.”
The Sevignys are a quiet family. The young girls aren’t track stars or accomplished artists. They like riding around on four-wheelers, watching movies, and texting their friends. Bryjitte, 16, is learning to drive.
After the tumult of their early years, stability felt like sanctity.
Then this fall, the sisters caught a respiratory virus. Bryjette and Tessa recovered, but Izibelle continued to decline.
Initially, doctors thought there might have been complications with her asthma. Then an MRI revealed the truth: Izi’s respiratory system was already so plagued by cancer she was essentially breathing with one lung.
From Salt Lake City, Patty and Izi FaceTimed home, and everyone cried. Isidore wasn’t sure both of them would make it back.
Izi sat at the helm of the family table last Friday, outlining a face on a bright orange pumpkin. She had grandpa cut it out, but it was her artist’s vision coming to life.
Surrounded by her two sisters and their best friend, the entire room came to life as well. Izi’s uncle had flown in from Kenai, Alaska, on a one-way ticket. A box of gifts and cards from the 11-year-old’s classmates sat nearby. The walls were lined with childhood memories: cemented imprints from growing hands, Disney movies housed in classic cassettes, and a custom state fair sign celebrating grandma Patty’s new lungs.
May 24, 2013, the wooden sign reads. Eight years ago — a lifeline.
As she photographed the Halloween festivities, Patty’s breath caught a bit, no doubt hoping a similar grace would save her granddaughter.
“We weren’t sure she’d make it the week, and the doctors weren’t optimistic,” she said quietly, so as not to disturb the scene. “But she’s a trooper. She’s a Sevigny.”
“I mean, it was just the thing to do. We loved those kids right from the start, and they’ve always loved us, so it worked out good.” — Isidore Sevigny Grandfather of Izibelle Sevigny