A dream come true: 16-year-old with terminal cancer returns to his high school for a day

Talen Birt’s classmates welcome him back to Andrew Jackson High with cheers

The 16-year-old was ready for the first day at Andrew Jackson High School of Advanced Technology as an 11th grader, but his osteosarcoma had metastasized to his left lung, preventing him from going to school

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Talen Birt loves school. The 16-year-old was ready for the first day at Andrew Jackson High School of Advanced Technology as an 11th grader, but his osteosarcoma had metastasized to his left lung, preventing him from going to school. He’s now in hospice.

His mother, Michelle Birt, said that on July 8, doctors said her son had three months left to live. One of his final wishes was to return to his high school for a day. That dream came true on Wednesday when the school had a special parade for the teen’s return.

“It means more than you could ever know to have a child. My baby has been fighting since May 2019,” Michelle said. “His whole left leg he doesn’t have a femur. He doesn’t have a tibia. He hasn’t walked since August 2019, since the surgery and everything. He’s an inspiration.”

He’s an inspiration to not only his mother but the entire school community.

Talen was overwhelmed to see his classmates, cheerleaders and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps as they cheered him on.

“He kept saying, ‘I cannot believe it,’” Talen’s mother said.

Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene was there for the parade, as well. She said Talen’s dream shows how school is much more than just academics.

“We are honored he chose to come back to school,” Greene said. “There is a lot of love here. There is caring about students, and it doesn’t matter what the situation is, they’re ready to stand up for this young man.”

Andrew Jackson High Principal Truitte Moreland said Talen is a fighter.

“We have a saying. It’s ‘once a Tiger, always a Tiger.’ And we have suffered loss, but for us, we’re going to take them with us and keep them with us as we continue to progress as a school,” said Truitte.

Talen was diagnosed with bone cancer in early 2019. After 26 rounds of chemo, he underwent a removal and replacement of his femur and knee, as well as a partial hip and tibial replacement. His mother said he still wakes up with a smile on his face each day.

“I want everybody to know, whenever you have an issue, and it’s really not an issue, Talen has shown me when you’re having a bad day, your truly not having a bad day,” she said.

The school community came together to wish Talen well and to say, “We love you and we miss you.”

The Dreams Come True organization helped Talen’s dream come true on Wednesday.

If you would like to share a note with Talen and his family, you can send a message through their Facebook group, Talen’s Warriors. Talen monitors this page and would love to hear positive messages from the community.


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