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Farewell, Caitie - Filipino girl with mysterious illness was a little ball of courage

Three-year-old Caitlin Soleil Lucas in her bed at NUH while undergoing treatment.
Three-year-old Caitlin Soleil Lucas in her bed at NUH while undergoing treatment.PHOTO: JERICHO JOSE LUCAS

Three years. That was how long she lived.

Yet, she touched more lives than most of us ever will, even if we live for 300 years.

"Courageous Caitie". That was what she was called because that was what she truly was: a little ball of immense courage.

Caitlin Lucas died from a rare form of leukaemia on March 31 in Singapore. It was one of those things. Just when we think life is good, it instead throws us a mean curve ball and all of a sudden everything has been turned upside down.

For nearly seven months, Caitie went through an ordeal that would make a grown man wish for a merciful death. Yet, she endured.

She had been in and out of hospitals since September last year, when rashes that seemed like mosquito bites surfaced on her arms and legs.

 
 

She was treated for tuberculosis. But the lesions kept spreading, her spleen and liver grew, and she began suffering from chronic diarrhoea.

She saw over 30 doctors and went through dozens of biopsies and blood transfusions. But her health continued to deteriorate.

In February, her parents brought her to Singapore, where she was diagnosed with juvenile myelomonicytic leukaemia, a condition so rare it strikes only one in a million American children. It was bleak news.

Yet, through it all, Caitie endured.

Even with wires and drips attached to her, she sang "Happy Birthday" to her mum, the last she would ever sing.

She was always singing, praying and playing.

Even when she had a breather covering her face, she would give her little brother a fist-bump.

She insisted on helping herself. She buttoned up her own pajamas. She walked as often as she could.

Her story unfolded on social media, and it did not take long for people to take notice. It broke hearts, but it also moved them to act in however small way they could to soothe a child's and her family's pain.

In Singapore, strangers came up to her hospital room bringing toiletries and food, taking care of the family's laundry, donating blood, or just offering comforting words.

They stuck with Caitie till the end. Hundreds packed a funeral parlor in Sin Ming Drive to offer sympathies and to celebrate a life cut short but well-lived. They brought flowers and balloons in various shades of pink, and they sang to her.

Caitie's parents, Jayjay and Feliz, would later say they had found a second home in Singapore.

Caitie was laid to rest in the Philippines on April 3, following a wedding-themed service that would have made her laugh in the giddy way three-year-olds do.

There were confettis and storm troopers - she loved Star Wars. There were tears, but there were also singing and dancing, and a string quartet.

Breaking down, her father said at the service: "My only prayer to God is that now, as we lift our eyes, that one day we will see her in a glorified body, so, so beautiful that, when I see her, I will get to hug her, and that she will just me that everything was worth it."

It was all worth it.

Caitie was a beacon for so many of us who had lost hope and felt abandoned, who had almost given up in believing that in a world where thousands die over a conflict in faith and where greed is extolled as a virtue, there is still some measure of goodness left.

"Every day, I look at Caitie's pictures before I start work and when there are times I get tired and stressed out. It gives me motivation and inspiration to keep going," Ms Rachel Joyce Gabuat Chan posed on Caitie's Facebook page.

Ms Gretchen Sy posed: "Thank you for touching my life. Now I see all things in brighter ways… You restored my spirit and faith, Courageous Caitie."