Last month, we were beyond honored to introduce you to one of the bravest young girls we know — Peyton. We shared a little bit of her story, gave you some insight into all that she is going through, and even hinted as to the exciting adventure that is quickly approaching in the coming months. But today, we are passing the reigns to someone else who is also on this journey. Someone else who is strong and brave and beautiful. Peyton’s mom…
I never imagined hearing the words, “Your child has leukemia”. Peyton, my perfectly healthy 12 year old daughter, danced beautifully onstage four short weeks earlier. When I think back to January 22, 2015, there are no words that could ever explain the amount of panic, fear and heartbreak I felt as I looked into her doctor’s eyes when he confirmed my worst nightmare.
Grateful for the compassion and empathy he gave us in that moment, his eyes shared the same sadness I felt in my heart. Our beautiful redheaded, blue-eyed daughter was very, very sick. Peyton started the seventh grade just like any other tweenager. She was excited to be back with her friends, thrilled to be cheering for her middle school football team and looking forward to a busy Nutcracker season with her ballet company. Nutcracker season has always been her favorite time of the year. Life for our family looked just like yours: planning summer vacations; my husband coaching our son’s little league baseball team; me driving girls in leotards to and from ballet class, all while making sure I had something somewhat healthy to feed my family for dinner. We’re the same as any other family you’d see at the mailbox or shopping at the local mall.
The day I watched my daughter barely lift her foot off the floor in her ballet class was a moment I can never erase from my memory. I felt a rush of heat from my toes up to my cheeks as I covered my mouth with my hand and whispered in disbelief that something was terribly wrong with my Peyton. The day I took her to the pediatrician, who had cared for her since the day she was born, was numbing as he looked at me and said that something is wrong. That same evening, my husband fell against the wall as Peyton’s pediatrician told him Texas Children’s was waiting for his daughter. I was in a daze when we arrived, asking myself, “How did we get here,” and watching as they put a face mask on Peyton. What do you do when a team of doctors comes in and out of your child’s hospital room for days with test after test, asking question after question, waiting for the bone marrow biopsy to come back with a definitive answer to everyone’s question: does Peyton have leukemia?
And finally, on that Thursday evening, her hospital room door opened quietly and her doctor walked slowly into the room…and we knew instantly, without him saying a word. Our perfect little girl has cancer. Leukemia. Cancer of the blood running through every single part of her body, filling her liver and spleen with leukemia cells, causing high fevers and her precious bones to ache while she danced. While we were grateful for answers, we cried a thousand tears. How could this be our new reality, our new normal: multiple doctor’s appointments every week, at chemotherapy treatments that would make her violently ill and take her beautiful red hair, rob her of school and ballet and split our family in two…me with Peyton and Roger with our son, Major.
We learned in the days to follow how intense and incredibly long the treatment plan is for leukemia: up to three years for girls and four for boys. Peyton was in the fight for her life and there was absolutely nothing Roger or I could do. We felt helpless. Watching the red chemotherapy drug enter my daughter’s body the day after her confirmed diagnosis still brings me to my knees in tears for my daughter, for our family, for her future.
The reality of treatment for childhood cancer is families spend a lot of time apart. We have to strategize every single day; Peyton is often unable to be in public places during her treatment and finding balance for our son is difficult. Siblings are just as affected by the cancer diagnosis as the parents and the patient. He still asks if his sister is going to die. All I can do is hug him as tightly as I can because I am unsure how to answer his very sincere question. Not a day has gone by since January that I have not cried. For Peyton. For Major. For my husband. For our family. While 2014 was one of the best years for the Richardsons, 2015 has proven to be one of the most challenging – physically, emotionally and financially.
Peyton has never once asked, “Why me?” What she does say is, “There will be good from my cancer, Mommy.” She has taught me to look for the good in every situation: the teamwork between my husband and I; the undeniable bond between Peyton and her younger brother; and in so many people as they offer to help our family in the most gracious of ways. I see the good in the incredibly gifted and caring doctors at Texas Children’s who care for each child individually, minding the whole child medically and emotionally. I see the good in every nurse who has touched Peyton – they light up her room with complete joy.
I also see the good in companies like Northwestern Mutual, which supports families fighting childhood cancer and recognizes the dire need for more research and funding for life-saving treatments. This is a challenging time for Peyton and our family, and Northwestern Mutual is helping us focus on something upbeat and positive. The company is celebrating Peyton’s greatest adventure – to see performances of the great ballet companies of the world and to meet the principal dancers – by dedicating its float design to Peyton’s greatest dream.
Children like Peyton just want to dance and live their lives. She is the same girl who sits next to your child in math, the same girl who brings her neighbors cookies just because, the girl next door who loves ballet, her dogs and Frappuccinos. Children need better treatments with fewer side effects and deserve better options to cure their cancers so they can go on and live their biggest dreams. My family continues to look for the good in every moment we can, hugging our children so tight, fighting alongside Peyton and taking each day as it comes. We may never understand why childhood cancer knocked on our front door, but our family is forever changed.
For the better.
An amazing girl with an amazing mama, and we are so very excited to watch as Peyton’s adveture comes to life. We hope you will continue to follow along with us as we watch Peyton’s beautiful ballet dreams unfold – both here as well as by visiting this page. Until next time, adventurers…
About Carrie R.
Carrie Richardson and her husband Roger married in 1997 and moved to Sugar Land in 1999. They reside in Greatwood and are so thankful for their wonderful community, which has supported Peyton and the entire Richardson family since her diagnosis. Carrie loves photography, antique shopping in Round Top, finding thrift pieces around Houston and painting anything she can find. Her home is proof that beauty can be found in the least expected places. Carrie loves her family and friends because without them, life would not be as much fun.
Please Note :: Once again, we have to give a big thank you to Northwestern Mutual for graciously sponsoring this series and for all that they are doing to spread awareness and provide support for childhood cancer. We are so proud to call them our partners!