It was ten years ago over the Fourth of July when Pete and Celeste first noticed that something seemed off with their daughter Peyton. Then just 5 years old, Peyton seemed wobbly and uncoordinated. She kept shuffling her feet and falling down as she walked in a Fourth of July parade.
Her parents took her to a pediatrician, who recommended bringing Peyton to Children’s Hospital Colorado for a CT scan. That’s when her parents received the devastating news: Peyton had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball near her brain stem.
Children’s Colorado's world-class experts jumped into action. Peyton was immediately admitted for surgery to remove the tumor.
“Celeste and I were up that entire night, holding Peyton,” said Pete. “The only thing we could think of was that our days with her could be numbered.”
Within two days, one of the best pediatric neurosurgeons in the country, Dr. Michael Handler, performed the surgery. It was a risky procedure: The tumor was located in a confined space with many critical brain structures immediately adjacent.
Thankfully, the surgery was a success. Dr. Handler was able to remove all but a tiny piece of the tumor. Peyton was in the hospital for a month but went on to make a full recovery.
Regrowth and fighting back
For years, Peyton’s cancer appeared to be in remission, but when she was 12 years old, doctors discovered a regrowth of the same tumor. Peyton required another surgery to remove the mass, which was growing dangerously close to her brain stem. Unfortunately, this time, the surgery impacted her motor skills and her recovery has been far more involved.
Peyton has been working hard to regain the full use of the right side of her body so that she can return to her passion of playing championship-level tennis.
“I used to play tennis three hours a day,” said Peyton, who is now 16 years old. “Now, that time is split with therapy.”
But Peyton has a saying that she repeats to herself whenever she feels discouraged: “Be strong, fight hard, dig deep.” Throughout all of her surgeries and therapies, Peyton has never lost her courageous spirit.
Today, Peyton’s family is focusing their efforts on raising money to support pediatric brain tumor research. They know that Peyton’s tumor could come back, but they have hope knowing that Children’s Colorado’s renowned physician-scientists are working every day to develop new treatments and cures.
“If we were anyplace else, I don’t know how we would have made it through,” said Pete. “They made us feel like part of the family.”