Edmonton cancer survivor given the trip of a lifetime

Edmonton cancer survivor given the trip of a lifetime

An Edmonton teen recovering from thyroid cancer is back home after taking the trip of a lifetime to Ethiopia.

Two years ago, doctors found a lump on Isabel Schuppli's thyroid. At age 16, she was diagnosed with cancer. 

"When we found out that Isabel had cancer it was a real shock to the family," said her father, James Schuppli. "You never want to hear those words, especially about your child."

Surgeons removed her thyroid and Schuppli started an intensive treatment that forced her to spend a week in her basement without human contact. The radiation from her medication would have made others sick.

During Schuppli's treatment, the Children's Wish Foundation offered to cross an item off her bucket list. Schuppli decided she wanted to meet the Ethiopian girl her family sponsors.

The Schuppli family sponsors a teen named Kidist through a sponsorship program called Compassion. For the past five years, they've stayed in touch with Kidist by writing dozens of letters.

"Once the idea of going to visit Kidist came about, I thought that was the best wish," Isabel Schuppli said.

"If you have the chance to go visit such a close friends, like a family member, why would you not?"

'A very unique wish'

Then, days before the trip, the family learned Isabel's treatment had worked. She was cancer-free. 

"We can only be thankful," James Schuppli said. "There's a lot of kids who have cancer who don't get a second chance. It's wonderful that Isabel has been given a second chance, has survived and will have the rest of her life."

The family visited Ethiopia for 10 days. They spent two days in the remote village where 17-year-old Kidist lives, before exploring more of the country.

"It's a very unique wish," said Jenna Rego, wish co-ordinator for the Children's Wish Foundation.

Rego, who has worked on more than 60 wishes for the foundation, said Schuppli's request pushed her into uncharted territory.

She worked closely with members of Compassion to plan a trip that would be safe for the entire family — especially Isabel, who was still recovering from treatment.

"These trips bring the family back together again," Rego said. "In Isabel's case it was them celebrating that she's clear."

James Schuppli said they spent nearly a year planning every detail of the trip. The family desperately wanted to create happy memories, he explained.

"It's given us a bit of closure," he said.

"Far too often you hear the bad stuff about cancer and you don't hear the good stuff. To have someone who's fighting cancer, who survived cancer and then to have a wish come true — it's been incredible."

The family returned to Edmonton on Tuesday and said they're eager to get back to life in their hometown.

Isabel Schuppli plans to graduate Grade 12 this spring before starting classes at the University of Alberta in September.