MURRAY, KY – You take your child to the doctor for a fever. Blood work is done and the doctors say she has cancer.
That’s the start of Payton Dawson’s story. We began telling her story in 2011 when she was just three years old. Now she’s cancer free and old enough to talk about her fight.
They are the family that knows the hospital waiting room like their own living room.
“I remember when I got sick,” Payton said. “I had a really high fever at night. They rushed me to the hospital and stuck me with needles and we found out I had cancer.”
She had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. A big word for a little girl.
“You would think that it is the saddest place on Earth because of all the children there running around with no hair on their head and so sick,” her dad Ryan said. “But it’s almost like a carnival. It’s one of the funnest places on Earth.”
Payton doesn’t remember much because of how young she was.
“They have good food!” she said. “There’s this wall where you can get ice cream and it has all the ice cream flavors on it.”
She does remember some of it, but with the good came the bad.
“You start a phase called induction,” her mom Melissa said. “You begin with high dose chemotherapy drugs – one of them is called the red devil and that’s exactly what it is. It makes them that sick.”
Then, there is the hair loss. “Looking back and remembering that day,” Ryan said. “Having to take the rest of her hair off. Seeing how she is now: full of energy, running and singing and dancing. It’s amazing. “
Seven years later, Payton is now 11 years old and enjoying being officially cancer free. “Hanging out with friends, going places and not being embarrassed, having hair!”
They said St. Jude gave them more than hope.
“They are learning from our children and we are hoping eventually cancer will be a word of the past,” Melissa said. “Hopefully there will be better treatments and less side effects, but they are striving every day just to be better.”
St. Jude gave them their daughter.
Ryan and other local St. Jude families continue to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through their organization called murray miracles.