Good Morning America (GMA) cohost Michael Strahan’s 19-year-old daughter, Isabella, was diagnosed with and treated for a malignant brain tumor after experiencing severe headaches. The retired NFL star joined his daughter on a segment of the show during which she shared her details of her brain tumor battle.
“She’s always been strong, and this is something that is so personal that I didn’t know if it would be something that she’d want to share,” Strahan told GMA colleague Robin Roberts, who’s a cancer survivor. “I’m extremely proud.”
In the fall of 2023, shortly after Isabella started her freshman year at the University of Southern California, she began experiencing severe headaches, nausea and loss of coordination. A few weeks later, she was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a brain tumor most commonly formed in the cerebellum, which controls balance and coordinated movements, such as walking.
Medulloblastomas are fast-growing tumors that can spread to other areas of the brain and spinal cord through cerebrospinal fluid. Although children are most commonly diagnosed with medulloblastomas, they typically affect people between 20 and 40 years old, according to the National Cancer Institute.
On October 27, the day before her 19th birthday, Isabella underwent emergency surgery to remove the tumor.
To cope with her diagnosis and share her journey with other young people living with cancer, Isabella launched a YouTube channel with help from her twin sister, Sophia, where she candidly discusses her experience undergoing brain surgery, radiation and more.
“This has been very hard, but I know I’ll get through it, and I know time will heal and things will get back to being—I can’t really say ‘normal’ because there’s not really a ‘normal’ right now in my life—but things will get back to being calmer,” Isabella said in the video.
Since undergoing surgery, Isabella has completed her first round of treatment, which included radiation and physical rehabilitation to relearn how to walk. Next, she’ll undergo chemotherapy.
“So I just finished radiation therapy, which is proton radiation, and I got to ring the bell [marking the completion of her radiation] yesterday,” she said in a recent YouTube update. “It was great. It was very exciting because it’s been a long 30 sessions, six weeks.”
Isabella said she’s “feeling good” and is eager to return to college.
"In a lot of ways, I’m the luckiest man in the world because I’ve 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 that she’s going to crush this,” Strahan said.
For more information on this type of cancer, visit Cancer Health’s Basics on Brain Cancer. It reads in part:
What is brain cancer?
Cancer develops when cells grow out of control. There are several types of primary brain cancer (meaning they start in the brain), with the most common being gliomas and glioblastomas, meningiomas, pituitary adenomas, schwannomas and medulloblastomas. Most of these names relate to where in the brain they are located.
Cancer may also arise elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain or spinal cord (the central nervous system), a process known as metastasis. In adults, about half of all brain cancers spread from elsewhere, especially from lung, breast and colon cancers and melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Lymphoma may spread to the brain from elsewhere in the body or start in the brain (primary central nervous system, or CNL, lymphoma).
What are the symptoms of brain cancer?
Many brain tumors do not cause symptoms. Some are found accidentally if brain imaging with a computed tomography (CT) or MRI scan is done for another reason. When symptoms do occur, they vary depending on which part of the brain or spinal cord is affected. Common symptoms may include:
Weakness or paralysis
Nausea or vomiting
Clumsiness or lack of coordination
Changes in vision, hearing, touch or taste
Mood, personality or behavior changes
Mental confusion, trouble concentrating or memory problems.
Many people with brain cancer do not develop symptoms until its late stages, when it is harder to treat.
How is brain cancer diagnosed?
Early detection and treatment of brain cancer increase the likelihood of long-term survival. Diagnosing brain cancer starts with a physical exam and health history. Often, brain imaging with a CT scan will be ordered. This is an imaging technique that uses X-rays to create a three-dimensional map of the brain. Sometimes an MRI scan is done as well. Other tests may be ordered, such as blood and urine tests, to determine what other health issues may be present.
If a tumor is evident from imaging and other tests, a biopsy or tissue sample may be done. Either a small hole is drilled into the skull and a device is inserted to remove a piece of the tumor or more extensive surgery is done during which the whole tumor is removed. A sample from the tumor is tested to determine whether it is cancerous.