(Adam Vogler) [Order this photo]
For Brittni Wysocki and her 8-month-old son Braxtyn, the help could not have come soon enough. On May 1, Braxtyn was diagnosed with dermatofibrosarcoma, a rare cancer typically found in adults that causes a tumor in the deep layers of skin. It is characterized by the skin's purple or reddish color and is usually only a few centimeters in diameter.
"At first, we just thought it was a birthmark, but later the skin biopsy came back positive," Wysocki said. "The doctors only know a little about it. It's so rare that there's only one or two cases per million people per year and only 2 percent of those cases are cancerous."
After the diagnosis, Wysocki discovered she would be making weekly trips to St. Louis for her son's treatments and decided to place a request on Sell It SEMO, a social networking page used to buy and sell items, for a portable DVD player to keep Braxtyn entertained on the long drives.
When no one responded to her request, Wysocki removed the post and assumed that was the end of her search. Less than a day later, however, a woman named Sara Smith sent her a message via Facebook saying she had a portable DVD player she would give to her for free.
"She saw my post about trying to find a DVD player for my son who was recently diagnosed with cancer and messaged me that she had one she would give to me," Wysocki said. "She said she knew a family with a child that had passed from a sudden illness almost exactly a year ago and wanted to do something to honor his memory."
Smith also gave Wysocki her coffee maker, which was no longer being used by her family, after hearing Wysocki's had been lost in her move to Cape Girardeau. When Smith met with Wysocki to give her the items, she brought her young daughter Savannah, 7, who was introduced to Braxtyn for the first time.
As they returned to their home in Jackson, Savannah, who will turn 8 years old this month, immediately began telling her mother she wanted to do something to help "baby Braxtyn."
He had just had a small section of skin, tissue and muscle removed from his arm to remove the tumor and doctors also had performed a skin graft using skin from his stomach. When Savannah saw the bandages, she became very concerned.
"I had knee surgery once and they had to wrap these really big bandages around my leg," she explained. "And baby Braxtyn had the same ones wrapped around his arm and belly. I was very worried about him."
Smith suggested her daughter set up a lemonade stand to help raise money to offset Wysocki's gas costs.
By June 8, Savannah had her stand up and running, selling lemonade, Popsicles and water to passers-by.
"There weren't a lot of people at first," she said. "But then more and more came up. Some of them just gave me money for Braxtyn. They didn't even want anything."
At the end of the day, Savannah had gathered $30 from her sales. She kept the money in a small plastic cup until she could finally present it to Braxtyn and his mother.
Wysocki said she had no words to describe how grateful she was for the simple act of kindness.
"To be so kind and sweet and do something to help baby Braxtyn is just unbelievable," she said. "And she didn't keep any of it. Thirty dollars might not seem like much, but to an 8-year-old that's a ton of money to buy toys or candy or something. That money provides me with half of what I need to go to St. Louis one time."
Smith said her daughter was more than happy to help out the family.
"She was really excited to do it, every day she would say 'I can't wait to do the lemonade stand. When can we do the lemonade stand?'" Smith said. "She just wanted to do something nice for this girl and her baby."
Wysocki said the doctors have declared Braxtyn cancer free since the skin graft, and her regular visits to St. Louis are now monthly, rather than weekly. The family still is being cautious because these types of tumors are known to return even after removal, but she said receiving support from people like Sara Smith and Savannah make it easier to stay positive.
"They said the cancer was gone, and I told my mom I really hope it doesn't come back," Savannah said. "But my mom said 'Well, that's why we've got to pray for him.' So I've just been praying for him every day."
Cape Girardeau, Mo.