HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Reminders of Raelyn still fill David and Jenni Cutbirth's Cypress area home.
“She was my whole world. I like to just be surrounded with her everywhere to just know that she's here with me always,” said David.
Their only child, who took more than 8 years to conceive, was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma at just 2. A painful tumor was growing inside of the sweet girl's head and mouth.
“We needed her to fight and she couldn't fight unless she saw us fight,” said Jenni.
We first met Raelyn on FOX 26 Morning news in 2013 and she was winning her battle, only to have the tumor return bigger and more aggressive.
“As a mom that was my whole world. I had fought for her. I'd fought to have her. I had fought to keep her and I was going to keep fighting,” said Jenni.
“It's just because I'm her dad and it's my job to protect her and I always told her I would. This time I couldn't,” said David.
But David and Jenni could try to cram a lifetime of memories into whatever little time they had left.
We interviewed Raelyn in July of 2014, when she became a veterinarian for a day just like her favorite cartoon character Doc McStuffins.
"’Do you like to take care of animals?’ Uh uh. ‘What's your favorite kind of animal?’ Zebra," said Raelyn.
Less than 5 months after that very special day, 4 and a half year old Raelyn Cutbirth passed away.
“For the first month I think I just laid there I let the world pass me by. I realized that the world was going to keep moving so I was going to have to make a conscious choice. I could move with the world or I could fall apart and I do believe you can die of grief and all I can think about is if I got up to heaven to go see her, she'd have her hands on her hips and she'd say you wasted your life mom. You wasted it. So I choose now to live to honor her,” said Jenni.
“I can't bear the weight of it for more than just a little while at a time. I didn't love her in the past tense. I mean I will always love her, she's with me no matter what. Her body may not be here. I may not get to see her, but she's always going to be with me,” said David.
And so is Raelyn’s new baby brother Boone. Remember, it took 8 years to have Raelyn, but just 6 weeks after her death and still grieving, the Cutbirth's had a new baby boy on the way.
“It was really confusing to be honest with you. [Raelyn] called in a favor whether she was going to be here physically to enjoy her little brother we felt like she had a say in the matter in him showing up,” said David.
“So to find out that you're pregnant, you're so excited but then there's this gut punch that your daughter who wanted to be a sister more than anything else was going to miss this opportunity,” said Jenni.
Baby Boone might not get to meet his big sister, but he will surely know her.
“I think we will focus not on how Raelyn died but on how she lived,” said Jenni.
A family forever missing one, while still living to love another.
“We choose to think that she's here, so she's not missing the opportunity we just don't get to share it with her,” said Jenni.
Jenni is now the Executive Director of “Operation Snowstorm.” It’s an organization that gives snow parties to terminally ill children. Raelyn was given the first snow party.