A brave Australian teen who lost her newborn son while battling cancer has died just days after being treated with a new trial drug in an attempt to beat the disease.
Surrounded by loved ones, Brianna Rawlings, 19, passed away on Dec. 29 after failing to overcome NK-cell leukemia, a rare and aggressive form of blood disease.
Rawlings, who was known as Bree, was diagnosed last year while 17 weeks pregnant with her first child. Because of her pregnancy, she made the decision to postpone getting aggressive treatment, thereby halving her own chances of survival in a bid to give her son the best chance of pulling through.
She delivered her son, Kyden, via C-section after 26 weeks. He died 12 days later after developing a stomach infection.
While the mother and her partner were devastated, Rawling’s sister, Kourt, told Australia’s Yahoo 7 in November that her sibling “made a promise” to her son to keep fighting her cancer.
However, Bree’s condition only worsened, and a potential bone marrow transplant from her brother was ruled out by doctors.
In November she was given a glimmer of hope with the introduction of a trial drug to help save her life. The costly treatment prompted her family to start a GoFundMe page, which raised enough funds for Bree to start the treatment.
But after two injections, she succumbed to the disease and passed away just days after her 19th birthday.
Tributes flood in for ‘inspirational’ woman
Bree’s family has been left shattered by the devastating news, with her sister sharing that her death has been difficult to process.
“I am so lost for words. … I can’t think without crying,” she told Yahoo.
Friends and relatives took to social media to pay tribute to the young woman and her resilience while battling leukemia.
“Please rest baby girl, you fought a bloody big fight,” her mother, Lyn Rawlings, wrote on Facebook. “You kicked its arse for a bit but it cheated and came back. You are always in my mind, etched in my memory.”
She added that her family will always remember “what an inspiration” Bree was to “many people.”
In a celebration of her life, the family held an intimate service for Bree on Jan. 4. Attendees wore vibrant colors because the teen asked for no one to wear black.
“Without you even knowing it, you have made a world of difference in the way I look at life now,” one relative said following the service.
Her sister told Yahoo she had words of advice for other families going through the same painful journey.
“We just want to encourage families to be present with each other and make as many memories as possible,” she said. “There are so many things Bree didn’t get to do, and we will now do them in her honor.”
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