TikTok star Harrison Gilks dies battling a rare cancer
An 18-year-old TikTok star has lost his battle with a rare form of cancer.
A week after Harrison Gilks posted his last social media video from his hospital bed, his brother confirmed he had died, surrounded by his family.
The Canadian built up a large TikTok following when he started documenting his bucket list journey after being told his cancer was terminal in June 2022.
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“I found out today that I had terminal cancer,” he said in a TikTok video.
“I’ve had a battle going with it for the last little while now and I was good, I thought, cancer-free for a little bit but, unfortunately, it came back.
“I’d like to make a little series called, maybe like, bucket list series. I’m gonna go out and do a bunch of stuff that I’ve always wanted to do.”
Gilks suffered from rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that forms in the body’s soft tissues.
In an early video he explained one of the main symptoms was trouble urinating. He was initially treated for a urinary tract infection. However, it continued to get worse.
“Eventually, I went to the ER because it was to the point where I couldn’t go an hour without peeing or anything like that,” he said.
Doctors told him he was starting puberty and he was sent home with antibiotics.
Gilks visited the doctors several more times with the same issue before they finally ordered a scan, which revealed a tumour in his prostate.
“It was about the size of a grapefruit,” he said.
“It was also in my lungs.”
He explained the cancer was extremely rare and affected only 1 in every 800,000 people.
Gilks slowly amassed a large following as he posted updates on his chemotherapy treatment and his bucket list adventures, which included travelling to places such as Los Angeles, New York and Mexico.
He also met sporting stars from some of his favourite teams, such as the LA Rams.
Gilks provided constant updates on his condition as it continued to decline — and as he continued to “make the best with the time I got left”.
The final video Gilks posted was on March 22, lying in a hospital bed with a nasal tube.
He explained he had experienced some complications on a trip to Mexico with his friends, and two days after coming home he had to call an ambulance to be taken to hospital.
“The cancer has spread throughout ... my liver, it definitely spread into there ... and then one of my lungs, it filled with fluid because of the tumours,” he said.
“Obviously without one of my lungs it’s really hard to breathe.
“The doctors said I don’t have a whole lot of time left, chances of me going home (are) very slim.”
He asked his TikTok followers to pray for him and his family, and thanked them for all the support.
Just over a week later, Gilks brother David posted a video on his account announcing the 18-year-old had died.
“Harrison sadly passed away a few hours ago,” David said.
“He was not in pain when he passed away, and he was with his family.
“I just wanted to come on here and say thank you to everyone from around the world for their support and encouragement, it really did mean a lot to him.”
More than eight million people viewed the final video posted on Gilks’ account, and thousands of users left comments of condolences.
“I’ve been dreading this video. I am so sorry for your loss. It really feels like all of our loss,” one person wrote.
“Your brother moved so many of us and reminded us to see life as one big bucket list — seize the day every day,” another said.
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