Baby who fought cancer with mom dies
December 16th, 2011
04:40 PM ET

Baby who fought cancer with mom dies

A 1-year-old girl whose family was profiled on CNN.com died Tuesday after a seven-month struggle with a childhood cancer.

The stories of the child, Saoirse Craig Fitzgerald, and her mother, Kezia Fitzgerald, were told this fall because they were both diagnosed with cancer - albeit different types - within five months of each other.

In the Fitzgerald family, a household of three, cancer struck twice.

Shortly after Kezia learned she had Hodgkin's lymphoma, her daughter was diagnosed in May with neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer that destroys a young nervous system by turning nerve cells into tumors. Cancer is "staged" to indicate its spread and Saoirse had stage 4, the furthest the disease can progress.  Kezia had stage 3 cancer, which is now in remission.

Saoirse, who is shown in this photo gallery from the September story, was a curious, playful girl who loved petting the family dog, Fallon, cuddling with her parents and watching "Sesame Street."

The cancer she had, neuroblastoma, develops from tissues that control vital body functions like heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and hormones, according to U.S. National Library of Medicine. It's unclear what causes neuroblastoma, but researchers believe the genetic mutation that contributes to the cause occurs during pregnancy or soon after birth.

"This robbed me of my daughter,"  her father, Mike Fitzgerald said.  "It'll never take away anything she stood for."

Despite  aggressive treatments, the neuroblastoma returned seemingly stronger each time.

Saoirse endured eight rounds of chemotherapy - many of them lasting for days. She endured the harsh chemicals and surgery that removed both her adrenal glands.  She did what 1-year-olds do - smile, dole out high-fives to the hospital staff and chase after her mommy and daddy.

In November, the family received more bad news. Saoirse's cancer had returned after surgery, this time in her skull. Not a week later, her liver became enlarged and swollen, because the cancer had overtaken the organ.

Saoirse's breathing became labored.  She couldn't sleep because she had to stay awake  to breathe.

"It was labored and violent in the last few hours," her father said. "She was breathing 60-90 breaths a minute. All her energy was spent on breathing."

Her parents put on "Curious George" and "Sesame Street" to calm her. Looking at the images on her iPad, she uttered, "Elmo."

Doctors prepared for a risky intubation procedure, hoping that a breathing tube would help her.

Mike Fitzgerald crouched next to his daughter and whispered into her ear: "You're safe. It's OK to relax. It's OK to go to sleep. Doctors are going to look at you. Mommy and Daddy are right here."

Her eyes were swollen, but she made eye contact with her mommy and daddy.

At 6:47 a.m. Tuesday, Saoirse died.

Her memorial service will be held on Saturday. Guests are prohibited from wearing black.

Her family's Facebook page and blog are here.

soundoff (159 Responses)
  1. NIck

    RIP Angel!

    December 21, 2011 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mal

    RIP Baby...

    December 21, 2011 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Mal

    RIP baby.....

    December 21, 2011 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Debi

    i read this story a few weeks ago , was hoping things for mom , and her daughter would take a better turn. I so sorry she lost her brave battle.

    December 21, 2011 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Amanda

    She was a strong, brave, beautiful girl. Now she lays in heaven with god. She is truly an angel watching over us. God bless her and her family

    December 21, 2011 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Norma Gonzalez

    Rest in Peace sweet angel. May God bring peace and comfort to this grieving family.

    December 22, 2011 at 05:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Elizabeth

    Rest in Peace sweet baby. Dear God I hope we can find a way to prevent this. I'm in total tears.

    December 22, 2011 at 05:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Michael

    one of the saddest things I have ever read...... my sincerest sympathies

    December 22, 2011 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. CrystalB

    RIP little lady...you are now in heaven and no longer in pain. To the parents, I'm totally saddened because I can feel how hard you fought for her and yourself/wife. Your in my prayers that the cancer in you goes away. Your little girl is now the angel that watches over you to protect you and one day you will meet with her again.

    December 22, 2011 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Enan's Mom

    As a parent who has also lost her baby too young to cancer, you have my deepest sympathies and understanding. All I can say is that for as much as it hurts now, it does get better, but it may just take a long time to get to that point. Until then, live for your little angel and think of her smiles and giggles knowing she would want you to smile back.

    December 29, 2011 at 05:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. May

    How can one read about this poor little baby and still believe there is a GOD? What that lovely child had to endure in her short time on this planet is beyond comprehension. What kind of god is it that would create a "life" like that for such a beautiful soul?

    December 29, 2011 at 23:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amanda

      There are two ways that I know of to answer that question. First of all, we live in a fallen world. Bad things happen here. But second of all, why would God be sad that someone has died? It might not be terrible at all to Him – we cannot think like Him, as we do not have the same view-point. This is just my humble attempt at trying to explain something that sounds so much more eloquent in my thoughts than when typed. But I hope this helps.

      December 30, 2011 at 21:20 | Report abuse |
    • PoisonTrees

      God is NOT the cause of human suffering. He does not "take" children to be with him in heaven as some have been told. We were all born imperfect, in a system where everyone good and bad eventually dies. But God has promised to change that and to reunite this baby with her parents by means of the resurrection he has already made provisions to do so. There is a good reason why God has allowed suffering, but please be assured that he does not cause it and will soon bring it to an end. (see Job 34:10-12 and John 5:28-29) If you would like to know more please visit https://watch002.securesites.net/e/contact/submit.htm

      January 1, 2012 at 17:43 | Report abuse |
    • Janet

      It's because of a beautiful child like that that we have to believe in God. Otherwise, the pain of thinking she is no more, her little soul is just gone would be impossible to bear. Please please don't take away one special second of her life because you think God punishes or doesn't exist. That is just too harsh and sad. And if you have to feel that way, then please keep it in your own heart. Every parent who has ever lost a child will thank you for not saying it out loud.

      January 15, 2012 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
  12. Scott

    Today I was upset because I was having issues with my teenager daughter. I saw this picture and thought to myself, 'God I'm so thankful for every moment, even the difficult ones'. May this suffering and amazing family find comfort and inner strength and I hope the love we all feel for them brings them a miracle.

    December 30, 2011 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. musings

    Hope and pray that mom beats her disease and shares the memory of her sweet little girl with another child, if she can bear it.

    January 2, 2012 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Courtney Schmidt

    Mike and Kezia,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story with the world. I know that this was not the outcome you hoped for, but please know that even though Saoirse's life was way too short, she impacted more people than you will ever know.

    January 4, 2012 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Nita

    The saddest and hurting news I read this morning, my prayers to the Fitzgerald family.

    January 5, 2012 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. and another thing...

    So beautifuly written Madison. Mike and Kezia, peace to you and the rest of those who knew and loved brave little Saorise.

    January 5, 2012 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Catherine

    when I saw that headline, my first reaction was "no, not that sweet baby!". My heart breaks for the Fitzgerald family.

    January 8, 2012 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Greg

    RIP you brave innocent little baby girl

    January 9, 2012 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. ashmita

    Rest in peace Angel..

    January 10, 2012 at 04:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Mandy

    I am so sorry for your loss, this little girl is beautiful and the world will not be the same without her. Words cannot describe how sorry I am.

    January 11, 2012 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Jennifer

    Poor little sweet pea. My heartfelt condolences to her parents. I wish you love and strength.

    January 12, 2012 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 15, 2012 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
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