childhood cancer

One Family’s Photos Reveal the Devastating Toll of Childhood Cancer

Having a child with cancer is heartbreaking for the entire family. A mother is posting photos of her family’s struggle with their son’s diagnosis so people can get a true picture of what that difficult situation looks like. Kaitlin Burge has been posting photos since 2018 when her son, Beckett Burge, was diagnosed with a childhood cancer called Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. It’s a very high-risk diagnosis that requires aggressive treatment.

Photos of Beckett getting sick over the toilet and his sister comforting him have gone viral. Kaitlin explains that she posted the photos so that people could understand the reality of having a child with cancer.

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The family was absolutely shocked when 3-year-old Beckett was diagnosed with Cancer.

The Burges family was first given Beckett’s diagnosis on April 15, 2018. It was unthinkable that their “spitfire with a huge personality and contagious smile,” could be so ill. They set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of treatment.

Not only was Beckett diagnosed with leukemia, but doctors also found pneumonia in his left lung and acute respiratory failure. In the year since Beckett’s diagnosis, he has lost his hair and the ability to walk.

The mother of two didn’t know how to explain her son’s diagnosis to her daughter.

In addition to caring for her son, Kaitlin had to make sure her daughter got the support she needed. At first, Aubrey, Kaitlin’s daughter didn’t know what to make of her brother’s illness. The siblings are only fifteen months apart.

Kaitlin remarked on how her kids’ relationship has changed, “When Beckett was first born, she wanted him gone,” she says. “She wanted him sent back to the hospital.” 

Aubrey adapted to her younger brother after a few months and quickly the two children became best friends. How do you explain to a child that her best friend is seriously ill?

Meredith Joyce Photography

“You always hear about the financial and medical struggles [with cancer], but how often do you hear about the struggles families with other children face?” Kaitlin posted on Beckett Strong, a Facebook page she created to keep friends and family updated.

Aubrey began noticing changes in her brother last year which broke Kaitlin’s heart.

Kaitlin posted about the changes and how they affected her daughter. The two kids went from “playing in school and at home together to sitting in a cold hospital room together.”

“My then 4-year-old watched her brother go from an ambulance to the ICU,” the post continued. “She watched a dozen doctors throw a mask over his face, poke and prod him with needles, pump a dozen medications through his body, all while he laid there helplessly. She wasn’t sure what was happening. All she knew was that something was wrong with her brother, her best friend.”

Meredith Joyce Photography

“The lively, energetic, and outgoing little brother she once knew was now a quiet, sick, and very sleepy little boy,” Kaitlin described.

Kaitlin posted the now-viral photos on Facebook to help others understand what it’s like for children.

The photos were shared over 29,000 times on Facebook. People connected with the raw emotion in the photos and Kaitlin’s testimony.

“Not a lot of people understand the reality of childhood cancer as it is,” Kaitlin said. “Siblings often are forgotten about. To show others how cancer can affect the entire family is the first step to raising awareness.”

Meredith Joyce Photography

As hard as the process has been, Beckett and Aubrey are closer than ever. Something as awful as cancer has strengthened the entire family’s bond.

“When he got sick, she wasn’t sure what was happening or why, but she continued to stick by him,” Kaitlin explained. “She FaceTimed him. She came up to see him. It was important to me to keep her involved as much as possible in an effort to prevent not only resentment and jealousy, but to teach her that siblings stick together.”

Now for some good news: Beckett is doing much better, has relearned to walk, and his hair has grown back.

Horrors of Childhood Cancer
GoFundMe

The Burge family is not completely out of the woods, but Beckett has improved. There are issues with his chemotherapy and interactions with medications which cause him to have photosensitivity.

Kaitlin knows that they’re lucky to have even gotten this far. She hopes that by sharing her family’s story and especially the photos and videos of Beckett at his most sick, people will put a face to the struggle faced by so many children and their families. Further, Kaitlin wants to raise awareness about funding for childhood cancer research. It’s criminal that only 4% of federal cancer research funds are spent on pediatric cancers.

“I hope that people will also realize the severity of the cancer our children today fight and how a simple cold could be fatal for them,” Kaitlin explained. “Families’ lives change the second they receive the diagnosis and likely never return to ‘normal.'”

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