PRINCETON, Texas — The images captured the family impact of a pediatric cancer diagnosis in just a few black and white photos. And the North Texas family who put them on Facebook says they will continue to share that impact hoping more attention and more research makes its way to children.
The pictures are not pleasant and they are not supposed to be. One of the photos shows a 4-year-old boy, bald from his first round of chemotherapy, standing over a toilet and reeling from the nausea his treatments bring. His 5-year-old sister stands at his side, her hand on his shoulder, trying to comfort him when no one else can.
"I would say it's a little more than day by day. We're kind of five minutes at a time," Kaitlin Burge said of the leukemia diagnosis their son Beckett received last April. From their home in Princeton, Texas, she and her husband created a Facebook page called Beckett Strong to share their journey and all the pain and ugliness a cancer fight can bring.
"The only way to raise that awareness is to put the bad out there and let people know it's not rainbows and butterflies. It's not fun," Burge said.
They want to show that cancer impacts the entire family. And, especially during Child Cancer Awareness Month, they want to draw attention to the fact that only 4% of federal research money devoted to cancer goes to pediatric cancer research.
"Our kids deserve it. They fight long and hard battles," Burge said. "And the funding for pediatric cancer is not where it should be."
Beckett is a rambunctious, and at first glance, healthy, 4-year-old now. But his cancer fight isn't over.
He will continue to receive maintenance doses of chemotherapy, some of it daily, for up to two more years. Fungal treatments are necessary to fight infection and steroids which often negatively alter his temperament and mood are necessary too. So the pictures and the blog of the Beckett Strong journey will continue.
"I'll post the good. I'll post the bad and I'll post the ugly," Burge said. "It's part of childhood cancer. And if our goal is to raise awareness for other families as well, it's important that we post those pictures."
Meanwhile, Beckett's older sister Aubrey is still by his side on this journey too. And that's the other message these parents want to share. Other families, those fighting cancer and those not, need to know that approximately 15,780 children and their families are expected to receive a pediatric cancer diagnosis each year.
"Tell them it takes a village," Beckett's father Matt Burge said. "That they're not alone."
"There are other people fighting the same battles, the same reactions. They're watching the same things with their kids so you're definitely not alone," Kaitlin added.
That's what a single picture tells us: that there are thousands of Becketts and thousands of families suffering through the bad suffering through the ugly, all the time hoping more attention and more research dollars come their way.