JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 16-year-old boy from Jacksonville, who had an aggressive form of bone cancer, was laid to rest on Saturday.
News4Jax first brought you Talen Birt’s story last month when the Dreams Come True organization surprised him with a special parade at his school, Andrew Jackson High. Talen’s osteosarcoma had spread to his left lung, preventing him from being in class.
“It was just hard to tell your son there’s nothing else they can do,” said Matthew Birt, Talen’s father. “Good athlete, perfect boy, no problems. He never got into trouble. A/B palmares and he just loved his family.”
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During 26 rounds of chemotherapy, several surgeries and the spread of the osteosarcoma since his diagnosis in 2019, Talen Birt’s focus has been on leaving the hospital to go to school and care for others.
Talen tragically lost his battle on August 30. It is his legacy that helps his family move forward.
“Before he died, that Sunday, he’d packed his book bag again. He said, ‘I’m going to school on Wednesday, right, Dad?’” said Matthew.
Talen’s parents were devastated by the diagnosis nearly two years ago, but Talen went through his journey with positivity and empowered his family.
“When we told him, the first thing that came out of his mouth was, ‘God is positive, so that’s why I’m positive,'” said Michelle, Talen’s mother.
Matthew knew something was wrong when his son limped and immediately took him to the doctors for testing.
Languages Birt (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.)
Their message: listen and watch your children. Let them guide you on their journey.
“What really surprised me when they talked about cancer research, only 4% of federal dollars goes to childhood cancer research. I was amazed,” said Matthew.
The Birt’s would see the pediatric floor full of babies up to 19-year-olds being treated for cancer.
dr. Eric Sandler, Nemours’ department chair of pediatrics, said funding is inadequate.
“I think part of that is that kids aren’t voting citizens and that makes a difference,” said Dr. sandler. “I think if you look at childhood cancer rates, it’s only 1% of all cancers that occur in the US”
dr. Sandler said, although the numbers are small, “but if you look at the life years saved because a two-year-old cured of cancer will be a member of society for another 70 to 80 years.”
He also said that pediatrics still benefit from adult cancer research, so when a new treatment for adults is developed, it could be applied to children as well.
Another problem is that doctors in 2021 are still using the same treatment that we used in 1981. Sandler said this isn’t because people haven’t tried it, but because the results haven’t changed.
“More research would be done if there was more money to help those researchers,” Sandler said.
While the Birten lay their child to rest, they put this subject in the spotlight.
“So it’s our journey to carry on Talen’s legacy by raising awareness among our legislators and our Congressman, because we need to create some awareness and let people know that we need to do better,” Matthew said.
They thank God for the time they shared together.
“I coached Languages and Football, Basketball and Baseball, so I’ve been getting those toys for 16 years where some dads never get,” said Matthew.
Not only are the Birts raising awareness of federal funding for childhood cancer, but they continue Talen’s legacy and love of school. Talen’s parents have set up a scholarship in their son’s name to help families who also have to deal with medical costs.
Shandler said that while federal funding is low, remarkable efforts have been made in recent years to improve that, including the childhood cancer alliance, Childhood Cancer Star Act. There is also a Biden initiative that is trying to get more funding. Doctors are also pushing for a Child Cancer Data Initiative for a national database.
Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.