These Images Are Gut-Wrenching and Beautiful at the Same Time, But They Show the Love of a Mom in the Deepest Way

Photography by Pulitzer Prize-Winner Renée C. Byer from the Sacramento Bee


Renée C. Byer

“Racing barefooted, Cyndie French pushes her son Derek Madsen, 10, up and down hallways in the UC Davis Medical Center, distracting him during the dreaded wait before his bone marrow extraction. Doctors want to determine whether he is eligible for a blood stem cell transplant, his best hope for beating neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer.”



Renée C. Byer

“Cyndie French, embraces her son, Derek Madsen, 10, on July 25, 2005, after learning Derek needs surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his abdomen.”



Renée C. Byer

“Derek gets a soothing massage from his mother, Cyndie French, at her Sacramento nail and tanning salon on June 2, 2005. The 10-year-old is battling a rare childhood cancer that has invaded his bones and organs. ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes to make him happy, to see him smile.’ Cyndie says.”



Renée C. Byer

“Derek is comforted by his brother Micah Moffe, 17, left, and mom Cyndie, right, as he gets a tattoo in preparation for radiation therapy for cancer during an orientation in radiation on November 30, 2005 at UC Davis Medical Center. Micah often accompanies Derek to treatments even though his schoolwork suffers.”

Become A Contributor



Renée C. Byer

“On Feb. 6, one of Derek’s cancer doctors recommends she contact hospice workers. Cyndie doesn’t tell Derek about the conversation, but retreats behind a closed door at home to cry.  ‘I don’t think it’s important to tell him,’ she says.  ‘Why? What for?’ Sensing her sadness, Derek tries to cheer her up.”



Renée C. Byer

“Realizing her son may never have an opportunity to get his driver’s license, something he’s told her he is anticipating, Cyndie defies the rules and lets 11-year-old Derek drive up and down their street in West Sacramento while sitting on her lap.”



Renée C. Byer

“Cyndie tries to have something at hand to take the sting out of Derek’s doctor appointments. On March 8, 2006 after he undergoes radiation treatment at the UC Davis Cancer Center, they make the most of a can of Silly String-and Cyndie then meticulously cleans up every bit of the stuff from the ground.”



Renée C. Byer

“Derek refuses to take pain medications because he fears damaging his organs. He rages at his mother on April 28, 2006, blaming her for not making him healthier. ‘You have to calm down and help me help you,’ Cyndie says.”



Renée C. Byer

“Derek kisses his mom Cyndie after the Relay for Life benefit, as his 6-year-old sister, Brieanna, stands by.”



Renée C. Byer

“In an effort to get Derek outside, Cyndie wheels him through the front door passing by artwork and cards given to her son by classmates at Bridgeway Island Elementary School. It was his last trip outside.”



Renée C. Byer

“Cyndie fights her emotions May 10, 2006, as she prepares to flush out Derek’s catheter with saline solution before hospice nurse Sue Kirkpatrick, left, administers a sedative that will give the 11-year-old a peaceful death. ‘I know in my heart I’ve done everything I can,’ Cyndie says.

Cyndie tearfully rocks her dying son Derek, 11, as the song “Because We Believe” plays. From left, family friends Ashley Berger, Amy Morgan and Kelly Whysong offer comfort as Cyndie tells Derek, ‘It’s OK, baby. I love you, little man. I love you, brave boy. I love you. I love you.'”



Renée C. Byer

“Cyndie leads Derek’s casket to burial with assistance from her sons Anthony Moffe, foreground, Micah Moffe, opposite him, and Vincent Morris, who is not visible, as well as several friends. ‘I will forever carry your memory in my heart and remind others to give of their time, energy and support to other families like ours,’ Cyndie says at the funeral.”