On March 6, 2013, the world was turned upside down for Brylee Olson and her family. This was the day that a seemingly normal two-year-old girl was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a brain tumor which is located in the middle of the brain stem.
For Brylee’s parents, Cory and Lara, the news only continued to get worse. On average, children with DIPG live 9-12 months following diagnosis. Because the tumor grows throughout the nerves, DIPG is inoperable. Although chemotherapy reduces the size of the tumor, treatment will not cure the disease.
At first, the news was hard for the Olsons to comprehend, but one thing was clear, the time Brylee had left would be spent making every moment count. In the past 13 months, Brylee has had the opportunity to do many things that most people would never experience in a lifetime.
Support from complete strangers and several organizations have made dreams come true for young Brylee. Between doctor appointments, medical treatment and illness, Brylee has enjoyed just being a kid.
According to her mom, she is a typical toddler who loves to giggle and have fun. “Her favorite thing is to play with baby dolls,” Lara explained. “She is a little mom to her dolls.”
The youngster also loves princesses and ladybugs. Make A Wish Foundation made her dream of visiting Disney World a reality last July. The trip made a lasting impression on Brylee who continues to ask when she will go back. “I think this has been her favorite activity,” her mom stated. “Every holiday, she asks if we are going to Disney World.”
Last fall, 4,500 ladybugs were released in Brylee’s honor. She has also enjoyed mascot visits, a trip to Yellowstone and Bear World, several parties and various other activities since being diagnosed with DIPG.
Community fundraisers and events for Brylee have been conducted over the past year. The story of a young, brave girl has touched the hearts of many.
“I think she has taught people that no matter what, never give up. Everything happens for a reason,” Lara said. “We have people in our lives that we would not have met if we weren’t in this situation. We are blessed for everyone who has entered our lives.”
Brylee’s father Cory explained that the young girl has become a celebrity of sorts. “We were in California and a complete stranger came up and asked if she was Brylee,” he laughed. “She has touched the hearts of so many by just being herself.”
Locally, support continues to pour in. On Tuesday evening, residents swarmed the Olson home armed with heart and ladybug shaped notes with personal messages attached, showing support for the ailing child and her family.
One young girl asked her parents to take her to the event so that she may meet Brylee, whom she calls her sister. The two children have never met before, but the brief encounter meant a lot to the tiny stranger.
Cory explained that support from the local community and complete strangers from across the country have made the process easier. Small acts of kindness and encouragement have kept the Olson family strong and focused on what really matters. In turn, Brylee has taught others to enjoy life to the fullest.
“I think she has made a lot of people stop and take a moment to look at their lives and appreciate what they have,” Lara explained. “She has inspired people to slow down, make every moment count and to live with no regrets. She is an inspiration to so many people and she has no idea that she has touched so many lives.”
After living with DIPG for over 13 months, physicians recently determined that Brylee’s tumor is back to its original size. “We are done with chemo and she’s going on hospice,” Lara indicated last week. “We don’t have a time frame of how long it might take, but Brylee has lost her fight. Today is the beginning of the end.”
Because this little girl has made such a big impact on others, her memory will live on.
“I feel so calm and comforted that she will pass peacefully and without pain. I have this overwhelming feeling that she only has days left with us and not weeks or months,” Lara stated. “She has touched and influenced so many lives. I feel so blessed to have been her mother. She has forever changed me.”
The Olsons have set up a Facebook page titled Brylee In 5, which tracks her journey and highlights the ups and downs of living with DIPG. Here, the public is welcome to share their feelings about the youngster.
“I would love to know how she has impacted your life,” Lara indicated. “So, please share your experiences and thoughts.”
Despite her pain, Brylee continues to brighten her families lives. Her big smile and contagious giggle serve as a reminder to be thankful for every moment of every day.