Childhood cancer is draining, frightening and painful. A mother in Texas shared an unfiltered peek into how the disease impacted her family.
Kaitlin Burge posted stirring photos of her 4-year-old son, Beckett, leaning over a toilet, with his 5-year-old sister, Aubrey, standing guard. Beckett was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia over a year ago.
"Vomiting between play sessions. Waking up to throw up. Standing by her brother's side and rubbing his back while he gets sick," she wrote. "This is childhood cancer. Take it or leave it."
Burge said she took the photos in January, but they depict a "typical day in the life" for her son. Beckett takes a chemotherapy pill every night in addition to monthly trips to a clinic where he receives chemo through a port, and with chemo comes nausea.
Her children make sacrifices for their brother
The photos, she said, show the reality of childhood cancer and its implications across families.
"Our family's been split up," she said of sending her children to stay with their grandmother or her brother while Beckett's in the hospital. "We're all tired. Your relationships are tried. You lose a lot of friends. You don't get to go out and live the life you've been living prior to this."
And focusing on Beckett's health has meant she has less time to devote to Aubrey and her 23-month-old daughter.
"The siblings are forgotten about a lot of the time. They make a lot of sacrifices that people don't realize," she said.
Aubrey has stayed by his side in the hospital and at home. At first, she didn't understand why her formerly playful younger brother slept all the time, couldn't walk on his own or got to skip school, Burge wrote.
"She was so used to being the big sister," she told CNN. "Her world flipped."
Families have embraced her message
Beckett should complete treatment in August 2021 after more than three years. It feels like an eternity for her family, Burge said.
The process has grown increasingly costly, so a friend made a GoFundMe for Beckett's medical expenses.
When Beckett was diagnosed, she felt like she was alone. But parents of children with cancer have embraced her post, revealed the community she didn't always know was there, she said.
"Finding positive, I think, in the ugly, is a good outlook on life."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article gave the incorrect age for Kaitlin Burge's young daughter. She is 23 months old.