By Alan Gionet
LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– There’s a picture from that day it all started. Taylor Burgess was with her sister Isabella. Jake and Stacey Burgess were dropping off Isabella for camp. They took the photo of the two together. Taylor was nearly 7 years old in June 2016. Isabella told them Taylor didn’t look right.
“All the red flags were there,” said Jake.
He’s a firefighter and has knowledge of illness. Taylor had been having frequent low-grade fever and took three naps in one day. She was bruising easily. One time she had a bloody nose that just wouldn’t stop. When Isabella chimed in, they decided they had to do something. Off they went after dropping off Taylor’s older sister. Doctors soon found Taylor had leukemia.
Her story is one of our faces of cancer. A brave and energetic girl of 8. We want to show her Colorado supports her. I’m trying to relate these stories as I take part in No Shave November to raise money and awareness about cancer. It killed my mother, father and brother.
“We were totally stunned,” said Jake. “Shut down for about two hours.”
Two hours of realization, their little girl had cancer. But that was enough. They would not look back.
“We never stopped to think, why, why, why,” said Jake.
As a firefighter, he had gotten used to the reality that bad things happen. The reasons are varied, sometime self-inflicted. Cancer picking a little girl is cruel, but the family grew tighter and stronger.
“We have to get going with life,” Jake recalled them thinking. “Let’s go.”
“Normal is a relative term,” is how he now describes it.
Their life changed but they’ve done as much as possible to keep things normal for Taylor. She’s still in school, in spite of the threat of illness with an immune system knocked down.
“At one point she spend a month in the hospital because of that,” he said about their decision not to keep her home.
Taylor is in second grade. The chemo is rough. She’s still never complained. They are planning a big Thanksgiving celebration with family.
“It’s going to be a party, it’s going to be fun,” he told me. Recently they’ve been thrilled at some progress. Her white cell count is now about a fifth of what’s considered normal.
“We are super happy about that.”
It had been only a tiny fraction of what it should be. Make a Wish helped them get to Florida to swim with dolphins. Life is special.
Taylor is going to be in treatment for another year.
“She’s a really happy kid, a voracious reader.”
Her sister Isabella is looking at entering the International Baccalaureate program in high school. They are all succeeding together. Jake has been restored by the kindness of people.
“I thought good people were like unicorns, you hear about them and never see them.”
Cancer has been an experience that has helped them in a way.
“Sometimes you can come out a better person on the other side and I think we have.”
Go Taylor. Colorado is with you and your family in the fight.
Alan Gionet is raising money and awareness about cancer during No Shave November. Here’s his page: https://no-shave.org/member/agionet