The mother took her fully emaciated son in her arms for the last time. Then it was time to say farewell.

Derek Madsen was a 10-year-old boy from Sacramento, California and his story is heartbreaking. It began in the summer of 2005 when he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer that mostly affects children. Derek immediately started treatment — he and his mother Cindy French were determined to beat the deadly disease.

The photographer Renée C. Byer offered to chronicle this battle and the family agreed. The result of her work is a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of powerful and touching images that capture an incredible range or emotions — the desperation, happiness, hope and sadness are all palpable. After scrolling down (through tears, if you’re anything like me), you might even find that the pictures inspire you to support research to help kids like Derek…

Here we see Cindy taking Derek for a spin down the hall of the UC Davis Medical Center. They were waiting to have Derek’s bone marrow tested to see if he might be eligible for a transplant. This little “joy ride” was a much-needed distraction from the anxious waiting.

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