CHILDHOOD CANCER WARRIOR: PAYTON
As told by her mom, Laura
As the mother of Payton, I’m honored to share the story of the bravest and strongest little cancer warrior I’ve ever met. Payton is funny, happy, creative, and has a connection with anyone she meets. Her smile always lights up the room. She loves people and is usually the comedian in the bunch. Payton loves Jesus with all of her heart, and her faith inspires anyone she meets.
Unfortunately, Payton was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma at the age of 9 in March of 2021. After months of fatigue, nausea, headaches and several inaccurate diagnoses of COVID, Payton started having severe shortness of breath and could no longer climb the stairs to her bedroom. Obviously alarmed, we took her to urgent care one Sunday morning. Immediately, they realized that her oxygen level was only at 80% and did a chest xray. The chest xray results were the most dreaded words a parent could hear. They told us that her chest had very large tumors, and that her condition was very serious because the tumors were pressing against her heart, trachea, and lungs. In that moment, our world changed and indescribable fear and panic over-whelmed our entire family.
They sent us to Texas Children’s Hospital immediately, and after a full day of testing, Payton was moved to ICU. That evening we met her oncologist for the first time. She told us this was very likely a type of lymphoma and that chemotherapy had to begin immediately. Within hours of hearing this news, our beautiful baby girl (who was begging to go home), was connected to numerous tubes and a grueling 2.5-year treatment plan began. The next few days consisted of a surgery to insert a chest tube to drain over 2 liters of fluid from her chest. Those days also brought about numerous, horrible side effects. None of us were given time to process this. It all happened so fast. Payton went from being a child who had never had an xray or bloodwork in her life, to a kid receiving hourly pokes along with biopsies, chest tubes, CT scans, MRI’s, and chemotherapy. After three days, the biopsy confirmed her diagnosis of T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Payton spent 12 days inpatient, and we are very thankful for the teams of providers who began to breakdown her long, complicated treatment plan and educate us on how the next 2.5 years of our lives would change.
After the initial hospital stay, Payton’s intense chemo schedule continued on an outpatient basis. She would go 3-4 times per week, usually for an entire day. The treatments quickly made her extremely sick and weaker by the day. The treatment plan, like all pediatric cancer battles, was not without serious obstacles. Payton experienced serious side effects brought on by the same drugs intended to save her life. She had a life-threatening blood clot that required surgery and an additional two weeks in the hospital. In addition, she had chemo-related heart issues, too many blood transfusions to count, and numerous ER visits for fevers, pain, infections, and other side effects we could have never imagined.
The most important thing to note is that Payton approaches all of this with a positive attitude and resilience. While she has faced obstacles that no child should ever encounter, she has the will to beat cancer and the hope to change the face of childhood cancer. She has taught us so much about endurance, patience, love and what matters most in life. She still finds a reason to smile and make others laugh daily. She looks for ways to give back and never misses an opportunity to thank those who have helped her along the way.
Payton still has over a year of treatment remaining, but she has made it to the “maintenance phase” of treatment, which is less aggressive and allows her to slowly transition into some “normal” childhood activities, such as playdates with friends, eating out with family, or going to church. Payton has a heart full of gratitude for the goodness of God and for everyone who treated her, supported her, and prayed for her. We are forever grateful for the team at Sky High for Kids and the love they showered us with throughout this journey thus far. We are honored to call them family and to be a part of their life-changing mission. We firmly believe that there has to be a safer, better way to help kids fight cancer, and therefore we are dedicated to support the mission of Sky High. No child should ever have to fight the battles that Payton continues to fight. We are beyond thankful for Brittany and the wonderful team at Sky High for Kids, their hard work, and their mission to end childhood cancer. Every single step of progress is a step in the right direction.