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CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski and wife, Wall Street Journal reporter Rachel Louise Ensign, are opening up more about their daughter Francesca, who died on Christmas Eve of brain cancer at just 9 months old, as her first birthday approaches.
Speaking with multiple panelists on Tuesday's episode of The View, Kaczynski, 31, said at one point in the couple's interview that their plan for her birthday, which is on Thursday, is actually "to have no plan."
"We're just gonna let that day hit us and figure out what we want to do," he added.
Kaczynski also went on to note that he and Ensign "had so many more good days in the hospital than we thought we would've had with" their daughter — like when she cut her first tooth while in the intensive care unit and "played with [an] Elmo balloon and laughed."
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Andrew Kaczynski Vows to "Spend the Rest of Our Lives Finding a Cure" After Infant Daughter's Death
"There were some really good times, even through the horribleness of the treatment," he recalled.
Francesca's death came three months after Kaczynski previously said she'd been diagnosed with an "extremely rare and very aggressive rhabdoid brain tumor" — specifically, an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (ATRT).
When asked whether their baby girl showed signs of ill health before the day her parents took her to the hospital, Ensign said on The View, "She was a very healthy, happy, lively baby, and one night she just started vomiting and wouldn't stop."
"It was such a lesson as a parent — you really have to trust your gut, because we went to a pediatric urgent care that said, 'It's just a stomach bug. Nothing's wrong,' " she continued. "But we came back home and really just felt like it was more and took her to the ER and there, immediately, they told us that they thought she had a brain tumor."
Ensign added, "It was the most horribly devastating moment of our lives."
Kaczynski said the couple were moved to share Francesca's story to spread awareness about pediatric brain cancer, and once they saw the outpouring of support from others (including many parents of children going through similar struggles), they realized it was worth speaking out.
"I just put that out there, the diagnosis, because we needed help," he explained. "We didn't know what to do. And from there, so many people who had kids with ATRT reached out to us and we contacted every expert in the world, basically, to figure out what to do. And it was important for me, at first, just to look for help."
"And now I feel like, for me at least, it's important for people to know about children with cancer. Because even though it's rare, you got 60,000 kids worldwide [who] might die of cancer every year, and that's millions of years lost with those kids, with their lives," Kaczynski continued.
He and Ensign have, so far, raised more than $575,000 for ATRT research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and, as Ensign said, toward "a fund that will push research just into the brain tumor that Francesca had."
"This situation has always been difficult for these oncologists — these incredible heroes who have been on the front lines treating kids with cancer every day," she said. "They're out there looking for funding, looking for access to drugs, and it's just way too tough for them. And we've been devoting our energy to raising awareness that kids do get cancer and, in fact, this is the No. 1 disease-related killer of children. And this is a horrible reality that is way too many people's lives right now."
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