Lymphoma and the Remarkable Power of the Mind
Children are a unique population of people. They have the ability to brighten the lives of almost anyone with their smiles and laughter. Coping with children who are terminally ill can take a toll on the strongest of people, whether a family member, friend, or healthcare provider. Yet despite their small stature and relative lack of experience with life, these tough little humans can work through the harshest of battles. Not many people demonstrate this more than 9-year-old Bailey Cooper from Bristol in the UK.
Bailey was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin lymphoma 15 months before he passed away at the age of 9. During the whole battle this child was a beacon of hope and strength. He was treated with chemotherapy, steroid medications, and even a stem cell transplant.
When he went into remission in February of 2017 doctors were optimistic, but within 2 months the cancer came back and the medical team found out that it had spread to his chest, lungs, liver, and spleen. During the last 9 months of his fight against cancer, his determination to meet his baby sister kept him going.
His mother Rachel Cooper, age 28, had a daughter in November of 2017. The family agreed to let Bailey name her and he chose “Millie.” When Bailey finally got to meet his new sister, he was immediately a terrific big brother. His mom recalls that he would hold, help change, and sing to her. He wanted to be involved from the very first meeting. After Bailey met Millie, his health began to rapidly decline, and he was eventually taken to the hospital and brought into hospice care. The family has nonetheless been left with fond memories and photos of Bailey holding Millie the day before he died on Christmas Eve.
As Christmas approached, his family asked him to make a Christmas list. While the entire family, including Bailey, knew that he was not likely to make it until Christmas, he reluctantly made a list. When the family read it they discovered something remarkable. Bailey had made a Christmas list of things that were more appropriate for his 6-year-old brother Riley rather than for himself. His parents still planned to get him everything that he asked for even though they knew that he had chosen items that Riley would like.
Bailey’s story is one of resilience. When he was finally about to pass away, he told his parents that they were only allowed to cry for 20 minutes. When his grandmother said that she wished he could take his place, Bailey told her that was selfish because she had grandchildren to take care of. Despite battle cancer for 15 months, Bailey smiled his whole way through treatment. When the Coopers finally recognized that he was slipping away, they told him, “It’s time to go Bailey, stop,” and he passed away peacefully at 11:45 on Christmas Eve morning.
The Coopers were open with Bailey about the severity of his condition. This meant that Bailey was able to plan his own funeral. The 9-year-old thus requested that all the guests dress up in superhero outfits for the funeral. Bailey’s family demonstrates how people can come together and find their way through the most difficult of times. Their message hopefully inspires other families with similar challenges to persevere, maintain hope, and remain confident that they can pull through.
The way that the Cooper family handled Bailey’s cancer diagnosis and prognosis brings up an important topic for discussion for any families coping with a child who is terminally ill.
How do you speak with children about death, especially their own?
Photo credit: Daily Mail