In December of 2017, 5-year-old Braylynn Lawhon was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) tumor, a deadly form of brain cancer. DIPGs tumors are aggressive and difficult to treat, which left doctors telling Braylynn's family to prepare for the worst.
That wasn't the only tragedy the family is dealing with, either. Braylynn's grandfather, 49-year-old Sean Peterson, suffers from bone marrow cancer and ALS. He can't speak or feed himself, but when he was brought to his granddaughter's bedside, it was clear that his mind is still present.
While Braylynn was in hospice, she became unresponsive. She was hooked up to multiple machines which were helping to keep her alive. Beth Peterson-Hickman, Braylynn's grandmother and Peterson's ex-wife, brought the loving grandfather to see the little girl, and the image of the two instantly went viral.
"They wheeled him in to see Braylynn. He can no longer speak, he can't move his hands and he has a feeding tube," Peterson-Hickman said. "When he saw her, he was crying and it was heart-wrenching. I broke down and I had to turn around. He just startled falling apart."
"He does not deserve this. He, like me, we're supposed to watch our grandkids grow up and make us great-grandparents," Peterson-Hickman said.
The photo broke the hearts of millions of people, and the latest update from the family has made it even worse.
Little Braylynn passed away on January 16th, after a month of fighting for her life.
"It's a true hell on earth. I feel helpless," Peterson-Hickman said. "I'm trying to stay strong for my family."
The family posted the update on the tribute page for Braylynn, and they spoke of her beautiful soul.
"Our sweet Braylynn, our warrior princess, earned her sparkly pink angel wings this evening," the statement read. "Her nickname was Princess Bel and she could light up any room. She loved Hello Kitty and her birthday was December 10. She was a princess with the strength of a warrior and she will NEVER be forgotten. We need this cruel disease called DIPG to stop taking our children away from us!"
"We're heartbroken, mad, angry," Peterson-Hickman said when Braylynn was diagnosed. "I begged God to give that baby's tumor to me. I've had 50 years here "” she's barely had five. I'd gladly take that baby's tumor."
The family has started a GoFundMe page to help cover the medical bills. If you would like to donate, you can do so here.
Rest in peace, sweet Braylynn.