September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and a mom from Princeton, Texas named Kaitlin Burge is speaking out about a piece of the puzzle we rarely talk about. As inspiring as it is to see entire communities rally around a child who is battling cancer, credit is also due to the loved ones around an ailing L.O.—especially his or her siblings.
Burge's son Beckett was diagnosed with Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on April 25, 2018. When he was born in 2015, Burge recalls that her now 5-year-old daughter Aubrey "wanted nothing to do with him. But then they became very close, she always wanted to know where he was, wanted to play with him all the time."
Now, an emotional photo of Aubrey comforting Beckett and caring from him while he was sick is going viral. Burge shared the image on a Facebook page set up to support Beckett in his fight against the disease.
Alongside the photo, she shared, "One thing they don’t tell you about childhood cancer is that it affects the entire family. You always hear about the financial and medical struggles, but how often do you hear about the struggles families with other children face? To some, this may be hard to see and read. My two kids, 15 months apart, went from playing in school and at home together to sitting in a cold hospital room together. My then 4 year-year-old watched her brother go from an ambulance to the ICU. 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."
Burge explained that a little over a month after Beckett was released from the hospital, Aubrey "watched him struggle to walk and struggle to play. The lively, energetic, and outgoing little brother she once knew was now a quiet, sick, and very sleepy little boy. He never wanted to play."
The mom of three said Aubrey "didn’t understand how he was able to walk before this, but now he can’t even stand unassisted. She didn’t understand the different therapies he had to attend to gain his strength back. To her, it was something special he got to do that she didn’t. Why couldn’t they go to their favorite trampoline park anymore? Why couldn’t they go to the splash pads they previously went to? Why didn’t he have to go back to school, but she did? Why did we take his sister with us and why did she see all of this at a young age?"
The experience lead her to conclude, "Children need support and togetherness, and should not be kept at a distance from the person who is ill. The most important thing is to show that they are taken care of regardless of the situation. She spent a fair amount of time, by his side in the bathroom, while he got sick. She stuck by him. She supported him and she took care of him, regardless of the situation. To this day, they are closer. She always takes care of him. Vomiting between play sessions. Waking up to throw up. Standing by her brothers side and rubbing his back while he gets sick. Going from 30 lbs. to 20 lbs. This is childhood cancer. Take it or leave it."
These days, Beckett is in a "maintenance" phase, doing two different kinds of chemo: one weekly and one monthly. Burge told Good Morning America that she hopes that he will be cancer-free by August of 2021. By then, she says she hopes her children will "go to the playground together. And just do all the normal stuff siblings do together." In the meantime, Aubrey's support for her little brother has undoubtedly bolstered their bond in an incredible, heartening way.