No parent ever expects to have to write an obituary for their 5-year-old child. But the parents of Braylynn Emma Lawhon ended up doing just that after they lost their daughter on January 15th, 2018.
Braylynn was diagnosed with a severe form of cancer just days prior to her fifth birthday. Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG) is an inoperable form of brain cancer that is extremely aggressive.
Braylynn’s aunt Shawnon wrote on the family’s GoFundMe page: “We were told it is inoperable, chemotherapy does not affect it and the only thing they can do is use radiation to slow the growth process,” she wrote. “This may only help for about two months and then it will stop working as well. She has less than a 10% survival rate. We were told she may live for about a year.”
The family had a glimpse of hope when they were directed to a surgeon who has had success with surgery on tumors like the one Braylynn had. But upon arriving at the hospital in North Carolina, it was discovered the girl had a bleed in the tumor. This signaled a severe downturn in Braylynn’s health. The family moved her to hospice care.
A Facebook post from Allyson Parker, Braylynn’s mom updated everyone to the situation and featured the heartbreaking photograph that has moved countless readers. “Prayers please,” Allyson wrote. “We’re in the ER. Braylynn has been sounding very congested today. We’ve had a CT done and they said they think there may be a small bleed in the tumor, but they don’t know for sure. They’re putting her on a few new meds to decrease swelling just in case, and starting her on a breathing tube.”
A heartbreaking photograph from that time has gone viral. The picture is of Sean Parker, Allyson’s father, and Braylynn’s grandfather, distraught by his granddaughter’s bedside.
Braylynn later passed away.
Despite this tragic loss, which brings the toughest of us to tears, there is a message of hope and strength in Braylynn’s story. Her mother has several posts on Facebook explaining the situation with this type of cancer. She writes, “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.”
Allyson and many other parents have spoken out about the fact that only 4% of research funding is allocated to all kinds of pediatric cancers by the National Cancer Institute. Parents fear that even such a small amount is in danger of significant cuts in today’s political climate.
Though Braylynn’s life was short, it was full. Full of people who loved her. A loving mother, Allyson Parker, an adoring father, Adam Lawhon, a big sister, Lilly, and several more aunts, uncles, grandparents and so many friends. She loved animals. Braylynn loved Beauty and the Beast, Hello Kitty, My Little Pony, Minecraft, Spiderman and playing with her sister and step-father, Andrew. She made everyone laugh.
Thanks to Braylynn’s courage battle against this cancer, as well as the battle of so many other children and parents, there is hope that one day there may be a cure.