‘Selfless’ N.S. boy whose dying wish charmed people worldwide dies of brain cancer

A Nova Scotia boy with terminal brain cancer who captured the hearts of people around the world has died.

Nine-year-old Leeland Hill Beck died last Saturday at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

Hill Beck charmed people with his call for photos of pets, his puppy party and his wish to meet his great-grandmother in St. John’s for the first time last summer.

His mom, Denise Hill, said her son had a positive impact on everyone he met, especially other children at the IWK.

“He always made sure to go and see those kids every day and kind of push them to keep going, even though he knew he was eventually going to die. He still pushed them and celebrated their milestones,” she said.

Leeland Hill Beck, who was three years old in this photo, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma in 2013. (CBC)

“He was a very selfless child. He cared about everybody else, he took care of everybody else.”

Hill said she was honest with her son that his cancer was terminal, but he wasn’t afraid of dying.

“I could just look at him and tell him, ‘Hey, buddy, your cancer is back in your brain and there’s nothing they can do.’ And he was OK with it,” she said.

Many Nova Scotians first learned about Hill Beck back in 2013, when he was diagnosed with medulloblastoma at just three years old.

Doctors removed a cancerous brain tumour and a biopsy confirmed the cancer was in the fourth stage. He underwent more than a year of radiation and chemotherapy.

Cancer was in remission for 5 years

After five years in remission, the family learned last summer that Hill Beck’s cancer had returned, this time in the middle of his brain stem.

His mom said they were told nothing could be done.

“He still was a champ through the whole thing,” she said.

Wish for a birthday party

Last July, the nine-year-old used his Children’s Wish Foundation wish to visit his great-grandmother in St. John’s and throw her a 90th birthday party. He was also thrown a puppy party while visiting the city.

His dad, Shane Beck, told CBC at the time that living in the moment and trying to give his son the best summer possible was what kept him going.

Not long after returning home to Dartmouth, N.S., Hill Beck received a visit by a dove named Serenity.

The pet had accidentally escaped and ended up at his home, which was just one kilometre away.

“As soon as Leeland touched her, he looked at me and said, ‘Mommy, it’s a message from God, I’m going to be OK,'” Hill told CBC’s Mainstreet last summer.

Leeland Hill Beck with Valerie Martel and the dove named Serenity. (Valerie Martell/Facebook)

At the time, the family had put a call out on social media for letters about animals and photos of pets for the animal-loving Hill Beck — they received over 3,000 letters and pictures.

“He loved reading the cards, people would send little presents to him and things like that. And he loved every bit of it and we still have every single piece of it,” Hill said.

“His hospital room had every single photo he received.”

‘He was a warrior’

Shortly after returning from Newfoundland, Hill said her son was admitted to the hospital. The family lived there for the last seven months.

In November, Hill was splitting her time between the IWK and the Victoria General Hospital, where her mother was admitted. She died of cancer on Nov. 26.

“We lost everything,” Hill said. “We’re starting fresh without my son, without my mother. The toll it takes on families is hard and the financial toll it takes is even harder.”

Hill Beck’s aunt, Rosemarie Thorpe, said she is in awe of her sister’s strength throughout this.

She visited from Penticton, B.C., in November when her mother died. It was the last time she saw her nephew.

“When [our mom] died, she told us that she was scared. What’s crazy is that Leeland wasn’t scared. He was a warrior,” Thorpe said.

“My only comfort in Leeland’s death is that he won’t be alone, because my mom’s there waiting.”

Funeral happening Saturday

Hill said even though she’s struggling now, she hopes people will learn from Hill Beck’s approach to life.

“Do things for other people with no reason behind it. Open your heart to other people,” she said.

Hill Beck’s funeral is on Saturday at the Evangel Pentecostal Church in Cole Harbour, N.S., at 11 a.m. AT.

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