DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Thursday morning, Isabella Strahan publicly shared her cancer diagnosis during a sit-down interview with "Good Morning America."
With her dad, NFL Hall of Famer and "Good Morning America" co-anchor Michael Strahan by her side, the 19-year-old University of Southern California freshman shared she first began experiences early in the fall.
"I didn't notice anything was off until probably September - October...That's when I definitely noticed headaches, nausea, couldn't walk straight," said Isabella, who initially believed she had vertigo.
Eventually, her symptoms worsened and she sought medical attention.
"I woke up probably at 1 p.m. (and) I was throwing up blood," Isabella explained.
After undergoing an MRI, doctors discovered a 4-centimeter tumor in the back of her brain and diagnosed Isabella with medulloblastoma.
"I don't really remember much. I just remember trying to figure out how to get to Los Angeles," Michael Strahan said.
Isabella had emergency surgery, and has since continued treatment at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke.
"I just finished radiation therapy, which is proton radiation. And I got to ring the bell yesterday. It was great. It was very exciting because it's been a long 30 sessions, six weeks," said Isabella.
The family of Preston Robert Tisch, a successful businessman and philanthropist, made a $10 million donation to Duke as he was undergoing treatment for brain cancer at the facility which now bears his name. Tisch was also a co-owner of the New York Giants, the team Michael Strahan played with his entire 15-year NFL career.
She will begin chemotherapy at Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center next month, and is teaming up with the provider to create a YouTube series documenting her journey.
"It's been like two months of keeping it quiet which is definitely difficult. I don't want to hide it anymore because it's hard to always keep it in. I hope to just kind of be a voice and be a person people, who maybe are going through physical therapy or radiation can look at and find something interesting about their day," said Isabella.
"I literally think that in a lot of ways I'm the luckiest man in the world, because I got an amazing daughter and I know she's going through it, but i know we're never given more than we can handle and she's going to crush this," said her dad.
Medulloblastoma accounts for nearly 20% of all childhood brain tumors, impacting about 500 kids annually. Isabella's case is even more uncommon, as the majority of patients are younger than 10 years old. That was the case for 2-year-old Connor George, who was diagnosed with medulloblastoma in October 2020.
"We did not see this coming whatsoever. We were unfamiliar with the childhood cancer world. Completely blindsided, overwhelmed, to say the least. He had emergency surgery to place a drain into his head to relieve the fluid that had built up from the tumor," said his mother Brooke George.
Brooke said Connor's symptoms began less than a week after she had given birth to his sibling. He complained of being tired, which progressed to headaches, neck pains, and consistent vomiting.
"To hear a 2-year-old say that they're dizzy is a little unsettling," George said.
After undergoing emergency surgery, Connor spent eight months undergoing chemotherapy at St. Jude Children's Hospital. Three months later, he relapsed, prompting six weeks of proton radiation therapy.
Connor's experience led George to become involved in advocacy efforts, where she now serves as Family Support Coordinator for The Cure Starts Now, a charitable organization which backs research into cancer treatments.
"I was not going to be able to sit idly on the side and just watch the world move on without trying to find a cure for Connor and for all the other kids. So I started with the awareness and the advocacy, and it's just where my heart and my passion led me," said George.
The National Cancer Institute says the relative 5-year survival rate is 72%. Besides improving that number, George also wants to see efforts to improve available treatments, noting a range of side effects that can have life-long impacts on children.
"His health status right now is wonderful, and he has been cancer-free for two years. We just got clean scans in December which we were elated about. He is a happy boy. He is in kindergarten this fall, which he loves. So right now he is just happy and thriving and we are very grateful for that," said George.