When Kaitlin Burge learned that her 2-year-old son, Beckett, had been diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia in April 2018, she knew her family had a long road ahead of them. And while it was difficult to tell her then 4-year-old daughter Aubrey what was going on with her little brother, she never imagined how supportive her little girl could be. In a touching now-viral Facebook post, Kaitlin shared how much of a pillar of strength Aubrey has been for Beckett and how much her daughter has given up.
"One thing they don't tell you about childhood cancer is that it affects the entire family," Kaitlin wrote in her emotional Facebook post. "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."
Kaitlin explained that her son's pediatric cancer diagnosis changed her family member's lives overnight. Aubrey even had to give up gymnastics so her parents could focus on Beckett's treatment. Despite missing out on one of her favourite activities, Aubrey didn't complain once.
"My two kids, who are 15 months apart, went from playing in school and at home together to sitting in a cold hospital room together," she explained. "My then 4-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."
She continued to explain how once her son came home from the hospital, he was a different person in many ways, and that affected his big sister.
"A little over a month after he was released from the hospital, she 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," wrote Kaitlin. "He never wanted to play. She didn't understand how he was able to walk before this, but now he can't even stand unassisted."
"Children need support and togetherness, and should not be kept at a distance from the person who is ill."
"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," said Kaitlin. "Why couldn't they go to their favourite 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?"
While Kaitlin completely understands how confusing her brother's illness could be for Aubrey, she knew it was important to teach her daughter that you need to support your family through thick and thin.
"Why did we take his sister with us and why did she see all of this at a young age? Children need support and togetherness, and should not be kept at a distance from the person who is ill," she explained. "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."
Kaitlin concluded her post by saying that while she knows pediatric cancer is any parent's worst nightmare, you just have to deal with it the best way you can. "Vomiting between play sessions. Waking up to throw up," she said. "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."
Though it's been an incredibly hard few years for the Burge family, Beckett has received a good prognosis from doctors and is set to finish chemotherapy in August 2021.