A tragic photo of a dying grandfather wailing in grief next to his cancer-stricken granddaughter shows the devastating impact of childhood cancer.
Distraught mother Ally Parker, from Florida, shared the poignant photo of her daughter Braylynn Lawhon who has an inoperable brain tumour.
The five-year-old, photographed lying down connected to a ventilator in a hospice, has been diagnosed with a Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) tumour, the most fatal form of brain cancer.
There is currently no effective treatment for DIPG, which is extremely resistant to chemotherapy and experts say has a 0 per cent survival rate.
Tragically, the little girl’s inconsolable grandfather seen crying next to her in the photo has been diagnosed with a life-shortening motor neuron disease (MND), a rare condition that progressively damages parts of the nervous system.
“These two are the strongest people I have ever known,” wrote Ms Parker in an emotive Facebook post.
“We all thought that they would outlive the rest of us…and we certainly never thought that my precious little Braylynn would be the first to go.”
Ms Parker added she couldn’t “even begin to explain how difficult this year will be and has already been”.
“In a few days I will have to bury this beautiful little girl. Months, maybe even weeks, later, I will have to bury my father. Both of my heroes, gone, within the same year,” she wrote.
“How could this happen to us? What did any of us do to deserve THIS? Why do they have to leave us? What are we supposed to do? I refuse to believe that there is a reason for this. This world is a terrible place.”
Despite the despairing outlook, the family say there is a “glimmer of hope” and are currently exploring experimental treatments, not covered by insurance, in Mexico and North Carolina.
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Her aunt Shawnon Peterson, who has started an online fundraiser to pay for the treatment, which costs $30,000 (£22,000) a round, said Braylynn is a “happy and smart” young girl.
“My sister is not ready to give her daughter up and they are both fighters,” she said.
“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.
“This may only help for about two months and then it will stop working as well. She has less than a 10 per cent survival rate.
“We were told she may live for about a year. As you can imagine this is extremely heartbreaking to our family.
“She hasn’t had the chance to live her life yet and we are asking for your help to in order to give her the best possible chance.”
So far more than $22,000 (£16,000) has been raised online to fund the experimental treatment.
“The possibility of her death is still very likely,” Ms Parker said in her latest update, “but once again, we have been shown a glimmer of hope.”
She added her daughter was “inspiring people all over the world”.
A DIPG tumor cannot be removed through surgery as it would likely cause severe neurological damage and could even be fatal, says the Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation.
You can follow Braylynn’s Fight Against DIPG on Facebook.