Watch CBS News

The Taunk family's strong bond and brotherly love is helping them through childhood leukemia battle

How brotherly love is helping this family through their childhood leukemia battle
How brotherly love is helping this family through their childhood leukemia battle 04:01

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A child's cancer diagnosis affects the entire family and those effects can be immense and in various forms. For the Taunk family, it means stress from the cancer and subsequent side effects of treatment.

It means a show of life-saving brotherly love, and it means they fight the battle together until they win.

Kabir Taunk is a smart, happy, inquisitive, food and video game-loving 11-year-old.

He was only 4 when he was diagnosed with a high-risk form of leukemia known as Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Kabir Taunk  

"The morning he was diagnosed, I was actually crying by his bedside around 4 in the morning because I was really feeling frustrated that we didn't know what was going on with him," Kabir's mother, Bhavika Taunnk, said. "He was not getting better, just worse and worse and worse."    

"I remember my legs hurting so much that I couldn't fall asleep," Kabir recalled. "I was very tired and I got very scared when we went to the hospital. No odds were in my favor and not many odds have been in my favor for my whole life."

That's not Kabir feeling sorry for himself, it's the stark reality of the life he's led since that cancer diagnosis in 2017. That reality initially consisted of a two-and-a-half-year course of treatment for Kabir.

"It takes more strength than imaginable to drive your child to chemotherapy when you know, yes, it's medicine but it's also like poison running through their veins," his mother said. 

Kabir's treatment ended and it was a success, until it wasn't. Kabir relapsed in July 2019, again six months later and a third time in July 2020 during the pandemic.

Each instance called for more aggressive treatment and with it, side effects that have taken a toll on Kabir's young body. The pain and problems he's faced and endured are too long to list. A sampling includes issues with his bladder, kidneys, nerve damage, a heart scare, weight gain, cognitive issues and so much more.

Mom and dad, tireless and selfless as they are, have been by his side every step of the way. But so has his younger brother, Ayaan who is 9. He volunteered to donate his bone marrow to Kabir. 

"There were two options that we could take but we knew which one was the better option," Ayaan said. "It was either the bone marrow transplant or that we just let Kabir die. I didn't just want to let him die." 

Talk about brotherly love. Their bond was fostered by their parents.

"One of the concepts that we worked on with Ayaan is fair is not equal," his dad said. 

His parents, are staunch supporters of Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation and have raised over $100,000 for the organization. They've even launched a tea company and they donate a portion of sales of a special blend honoring Alex, back to the foundation.  

"It's really important that charities like Alex's get more funding so that children who are getting treatment are getting better treatment, treatment with less toxicity. So these are the kind of things that we really advocate for."

"There's this saying that Kabir used to love... If you mess with one of us? You mess with all of us," Ayaan said. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.