This article was written for The Alternative Press by Anna Pitingolo, a graduate of Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights and a former oceanography student of Isadora Seibert.
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - What would Dora do? That is the mantra that friends and family of Isadora Seibert now follow in their daily lives. Isadora, who passed away this past March, is described as someone who carried so much happiness and kindness in her. She was loved and adored by everyone she met.
Isadora was someone who always put others first, and rarely ever made a distasteful comment towards anyone. A science teacher at Governor Livingston High School, she was a favorite amongst her students and colleagues, even though she was only there for two and a half short years. She was the type of person who made you want to be a better person yourself.
Last October, at the age of 25, Isadora (affectionately called Dora) was diagnosed with fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, a liver cancer so rare that each year there are only 60 documented cases in the United States and 200 worldwide. Oftentimes, symptoms don’t develop until the cancer is too far along, and it rejects chemotherapy and radiation treatment, leaving it near impossible to cure. For Isadora, not only was the cancer attacking her liver, but it had spread to other parts of her body as well, making surgery a painful option that she ultimately decided not to take.
Only a few days after Isadora’s passing on March 6th, the Seibert family started the Isadora J. Seibert Foundation as a way to move forward and to honor her. After Isadora and her family had been told by the doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center that there was no hope for recovery, they knew they had to do something to help change the outlook for this type of cancer.
“The purpose of the foundation is to raise money and awareness for Isadora’s type of cancer,” said Isadora’s mom, Phyllis. “Because it is so rare, money doesn’t really go towards it, so we now took that as our job to help fund the research to find a cure.”
Richard, Isadora’s dad, adds, “The only way for you to know that you have this cancer inside of you is to get a CT scan of your liver. Even if we can’t find a cure, we have to find a way to create some type of blood test that can be performed so that you can at least know that you’re sick.”
“We are making it our mission to help raise money so what we can offer grants to researchers looking into this type of cancer,” commented Phyllis.
Not only was the foundation set up to raise money and awareness, but it also funds the Isadora Seibert Teacher Scholarship, presented to three graduating seniors at GLHS who will be pursing a career in education.
“While Dora was ill, we had a very brief conversation about doing something like this, and she immediately said that she wanted to set up a scholarship for students who wanted to be teachers.”
Since Isadora’s passing, the foundation has had various fundraising events, including a wine tasting and a bracelet sale. Currently, they are selling a book that Isadora wrote when she was just seven years old, titled About Me.
“I came across the story, and as I was reading it, it was so beautiful that even at the age of 7, Isadora was such a happy, loving person,” said Phyllis. “We decided to publish it so that people would get to see a glimpse of who Isadora was even as a child.”
When asked about their hope of what their daughter’s legacy will be, both Phyllis and Richard put it simply: to be kind and to share love.
“Those are the two hardest things, to be kind, even to people you don’t want to be kind to, and to open up and share love; to practice that each and every day,” said Richard. “In reality, Isadora lived that.”
That is what Dora would do.
For more information about the Isadora J. Seibert Foundation, or to purchase About Me by Isadora, please visit www.isadoraseibert.org. You can ‘Like’ the Foundation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isadorajseibert.