By Kayla Jardine/Joe Cingrana

Just this week, hospital staff at the Duke Cancer Institute in North Carolina captured a spontaneous moment when a mother, in between appointments for her one-year-old son, sat down at an empty piano and started singing him a song from The Greatest Showman.

“I’m very keenly aware of where all the pianos are at all of the hospitals we stay at,” Tanner tells “Any chance I get, I try to sneak away to a piano. I’m not an emotional person, so the way I process things best is by playing it out.”

Tanner says she is determined to make the best of her family’s situation, whose 14-month-old son Lincoln suffers from a rare medical condition called malignant migrating partial seizures of infancy — a severe form of epilepsy that begins in early childhood, stalling progression and causing profound developmental delay.

“We are all going to die,” Tanner says. “We just happen to know what it is that is going to take Lincoln. But epilepsy isn’t going to rob us of the joy of life. Lincoln will probably never walk, he will never learn to hold a spoon, he will never say ‘I love you,’ but we don’t let that suck us into a dark abyss of hopelessness,” she explains.

“There’s so much joy, too, and we have gained a really good perspective on the things that matter.”

Learn more about Lincoln’s journey at


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