“The best people go through the toughest times,” Katie Wallace of Saint Clair Shores explains, describing the tragic loss of her 11-year-old nephew and godson, Brandon Steenland.
Dealing with complications since birth, Brandon experienced more hardships in his 11 years of life than most could comprehend.
A seizure as a result of a hereditary heart complication left Brandon cognitively impaired from the very early stages of his life. However, the hard times didn’t hold him back from living a full life. He was able to enjoy things most kids do: Finding Nemo, video games, and even being deemed “Class Clown.”
In February of this year, the boy who never complained was in and out of the hospital with extreme flu-like symptoms. However, it wasn’t the flu outbreak or mono that doctors had predicted. It was stage 3 Lymphoma Cancer.
Immediately taking action, a GoFundMe was made to help support the care he needed, as well as extra time. This brought Brandon home, and his mother Lindsay Wallace quickly resigned from her job to stay by his side.
“Time spent by Brandon’s side instead of having to be away at work 40+ hours a week,” Lindsay says. “The ability to be at home as a family to support Brandon to gain the strength to become the same boy that told jokes nonstop and made my heart continue beating; my better half.”
Then, the unthinkable happened. While in his second round of chemotherapy, Brandon caught an infection from an ingrown toenail.
An ingrown toenail. Something you or I get regularly, left him unable to walk without immense pain, as a large portion of his toe had to be immediately removed.
The early afternoon of June 3rd was when the Wallace’s world quickly started changing.
Finding Brandon in an unusually ill state, his mother Lindsay brought him back to the hospital where it was found that he had pneumonia and a blood infection from his ingrown toenail.
“Still, this was just going to be a minor bump in the road and he would be home in no time after a few blood transfusions,” Katie recalls.
Being placed on a ventilator to allow his body to “rest and become stronger” quickly turned over when his “little heart was just too tired.” Brandon passed away on June 5th, 2016.
Prior to his passing, Eminem caught wind of Brandon’s battle and sent him some encouragement. Though he was not able to hold the autographed CDs, his family was floored by his kind outreach.
Especially his aunt, Katie Wallace, who has been a big Eminem fan for as long as she can remember.
I still can't get over this was made possible. Although he wasn't able to physically hold it before he left us, I'm sure he is looking down smiling. And if you know me, you know I am THEE biggest Eminem fan but I didn't know how much my nephew was following in my footsteps; two class clowns and a shared taste in excellent music. His best friend told me they would watch Eminem videos all day. I'm SO proud. My all time favorite artist giving back to my favorite person. One day when I meet you I'll thank you in person. Many thanks @eminem 💚 @eminem @royceda59 @rosenberg I don't know how you did this @ktgia but THANK YOU THANK YOU!!
“I just can’t believe it still,” Katie says. “Brandon would of loved it. It was a gift from my favorite artist of all time, going to my single most favorite person in my entire life. It’s awesome he could take time, even while in Europe, to do that.”
I wish the best to the Wallace/Steenland family during this unthinkably difficult time. This tragic event has brought awareness to the underfunding of childhood cancer as well as the lack of research.
As Katie points out,”This tragic event makes you realize how many die, not from the cancer, but from the drugs being pumped through their little systems; the secondary illnesses as a result.”
Though Brandon is no longer in pain, there are still many children suffering from life-threatening diseases in the state of Michigan alone.
If you’d like to help, check out The Rainbow Connection HERE.