Belfast Telegraph

Rebekah Bunting was the girl who made people happy... She had the loveliest smile

By Victoria O'Hara

Little Rebekah Bunting had the brightest smile, the kind that drew everyone in who met her. The nine-year-old from Carrickfergus loved life, her family, friends and music.

It was last March – during a One Direction concert – that her life and that of her family's was turned upside down when she fell ill.

Rebekah began being sick every few days and experienced such painful headaches they reduced her to tears. Initially thought to be a viral infection, the little girl was given antibiotics.

But her parents soon took her to the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children where she underwent blood tests and was given anti-sickness tablets.

Six weeks after she first became ill, her parents were becoming increasingly worried.

Finally, she was diagnosed at the end of June with DIPG– an inoperable, rare tumour located in the middle of the brain stem.

The cancer had spread very quickly and the tumour was at the most advanced stage, a Grade Four.

It took three months to diagnose Rebekah and she died just 12 weeks later, after celebrating her ninth birthday in Northern Ireland Children's Hospice.

By then, she was paralysed but her brother Craig, who had flown back from Australia to be with her, said they made it a special day.

"She smiled all day, singing and laughing because everyone that she loved was around on her birthday," he said.

This included her parents, Louise and Mervyn and siblings Craig (25), Tristan (13) and sister Demi.

"She loved life more than anyone. She had a great day–we all did. We have photographs that we will keep for ever," Craig added.

"The key was to make it as special as we could for her because we knew for a fact it was going to be her last birthday."

On August 10, she passed away peacefully in her father's arms.

"She was an angel on earth, she was absolutely incredible," Craig added. "She was so friendly and so kind. Everyone knew her, always saying hello to people. Rebekah was the little girl who made people happy when she was around them. She had the loveliest smile that seemed to just draw everyone in."

And her brother said she didn't realise how brave she was.

"Whenever she was sick, she was watching Oscar Knox on TV. She was blown away by how brave he was, not even thinking that she was brave herself.

"I just explained she was brave herself. She was just so wise for her age."

Craig, who plans to do a skydive for the charity to mark what would have been Rebekah's 10th birthday, said: "When we lost her it was just so tough."

He explained that creating the Just Giving page was a focus for the grieving family.

"There are people who haven't even met her before and are getting involved in charity work. But I think when they see her smile, they want to help."

The family plans to launch an official charity in her memory.

"For me, and I know for the rest of the family, it's about Rebekah, and making Rebekah proud, because we know she would be ecstatic we are helping others. We want this to be her legacy."

For more information about DIPG, view RebekahBunting

Belfast Telegraph

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