5-year-old Braylynn was a normal, healthy girl as late as Christmas. But cancer struck when the family was least expecting it and now, she's fighting for her life.
In 2016, an estimated 1.6 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States, with nearly 600,000 people not surviving the disease. About 15,000 of these were children, and nearly 2,000 of those will succumb to it. Cancer seems to strike at the worst possible time, and it was no different for five-year-old Braylynn Lawhon.
Just a few weeks ago, she was just like any other child her age. Super-excited for Christmas, the arrival of Santa, opening presents, and frolicking in the snow with her sister, cousins, and friends. But in a cruel turn of events, she would be diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), the deadliest form of brain cancer that has no cure and has, so far, had very few survivors.
Braylynn's mother, Ally Parker, has regularly been posting updates on her Facebook regarding her daughter's condition and it has not made for good reading. While it appeared as though there may have been hope initially, her condition would deteriorate rapidly and her family fears she could be taking her final breath in any of the coming days.
False hope can be devastating to even the most seasoned and Braylynn's family will know that first-hand. It had initially seemed that the five-year-old would have time to seek treatment, with the family announcing on Facebook that they had raised enough money for one round of experimental treatment in Mexico.
A plan had been put in place to raise the requisite $300,000 but the bad news would keep piling up. Her mother took to Facebook to write out an ominous-sounding post which read: "Today is the day... Today will be the worst day of my life so far, and in less than a week, I will have a day that is even more terrible. Today is the day that everyone will have to say their final goodbyes, to a FIVE-year-old. This should never happen to anyone. There is no one in this world who is evil enough to deserve to feel what I am currently feeling. My baby girl deserves to live a full, happy life, and so does every other child who has had to face DIPG."
"We have to put an end to this. No more kids can get this disease and be allowed to die from it. We HAVE to find a cure, not a damn band-aid. These kids deserve so much more than that, someday soon someone needs to find out what that cure is."
"In the next 24 hours, I advise everyone to take as many pictures of and with her as possible. This will be your last chance, so everyone needs to take it. Take turns, and make sure you stay out of the way of the picture being taken if the person taking it does not want you in the picture. Be respectful. If anything or anyone spoils this day, I will not hesitate to make you leave for the remainder of the time that we will be here."
"This is about HER, and the people who really knew her should know that if anything went wrong on a day that was meant to be her own, she would take matters into her own chubby little hands and kick people out. So because today is about HER and no one else, I will gladly do the same because I know she would wish for it to happen. So please, be respectful towards one another, behave yourselves, most of us are not children."
But her five-year-old daughter's loss will not even be the only one she has to cope with. Shortly after her above post, she shared a photo on her page that would have millions around the world dabbing their eyes with tissues.
The picture depicts her father, Braylynn's grandfather, Sean Peterson, sitting next to his granddaughter's bed. The pained expression on his face as he says goodbye tugs at the heartstrings like nothing else and has been nearly shared 5,000 times. Peterson is terminally ill with the motor-neuron disease ALS and can no longer speak.
Accompanied by a picture of grandfather and granddaughter, she wrote: "These two are the strongest people I have ever known. Everyone related to us would agree. We all thought that they would outlive the rest of us...and we certainly never thought that my precious little Braylynn would be the first to go."
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