When little Payton started complaining about stomach pains, her parents did not expect the diagnosis for their then 18-month-old baby.
“It was a shock,” said her father Brian Maurice. “You see these stories all the time, but you never think it’s going to happen to you.”
An ultrasound revealed Payton had a grapefruit-sized tumor in her abdomen. It’s called embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (RMO), an aggressive form of cancer considered a childhood disease that typically occurs in those age 18 and under.
Payton’s parents, Brian and Christy Maurice of Destrehan, are staying positive for their child, who Brian says picked up on their distress at first. When they realized why she was upset, they worked through their own emotions and stay upbeat around their daughter to promote her recovery.
They also are relieved it was caught before age 2, which improves chances of recovery. It is considered an immediate risk because the cancer’s large and near other organs, but it has apparently not spread.
It’s good news for a child that Brian called the “life of the party.”
“She’s always laughing … always smiling … always eating,” he mused about Payton. “As long as she’s fed, she’s very easy going, and she’ll walk up to anybody and start talking to them.”
On Friday, they were at Ochsner so Payton could be scanned to check on her progress.
Some 2-1/2 months of chemotherapy is helping shrink the tumor and then she’ll need radiation or surgery, Brian said. Radiation is the more likely next step and it could be done with MD Anderson’s proton beam therapy, which is more precise and intense, or at a hospital in New York.
“The only thing we think about is when we get the ‘all clear,’” Brian said. “That she’s good to go and live a normal, happy life. You have other thoughts, but you can’t think that way. We stay positive.”
In her daily life, Payton understands her care better and recognizes some of the Ochsner staff.
At home, she’s gotten accustomed to having a nanny three days a week and her grandparents’ care the rest of the time so her parents can continue their real estate work. Because of germs, she couldn’t go to daycare anymore.
But she’s remained resilient through this challenge in her young life.
“It’s really kind of amazing and keeps us going,” Brian said. “Sometimes, she can get tired. Her hair is falling out. We’ve had a couple of scares. She had a reaction to the chemo. She turned purple and went hypoxic, but her blood counts are better and she can see friends. She can still go outside and swim.”
She tells the nurses to go away and “bye bye” when they’re there too long, he said.
“It’s a parents’ worst nightmare, but we try to focus on the positive things,” Brian said. “We live in a time where technology can do so much for us, and all of our friends and family have been overwhelming with support.”
The support includes several fundraisers:
- Anytime Fitness in Destrehan is holding a fundraiser on Oct. 12. The RPM class is at 8 a.m. and Mega Class at 9:30 a.m. at the gym for a minimum $10 donation, which includes a T-shirt and door prizes.
- Pacing for Pay: A Gofundme account has been set up at www.gofundme.com/f/pacing-for-pay.
- A cocktail fundraiser is being held at the restaurant Nole’ on St. Charles Avenue at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11. Ochsner will have its blood van there for donations in case Payton needs blood.
- Payton’s aunt Francie Abell is running in the Children’s Hospital Jazz Half Marathon in New Orleans on Oct. 26 on behalf of Payton. She’s requesting sponsorships. To contact Abell, visit www.gofundme.com/f/pacing-for-pay.
What is Embyronal Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS)?
- An aggressive and highly malignant form of cancer generally considered to be a disease of childhood.
- It is most common in children 0–4 years old, with a maximum reported incidence of 4 cases per 1 million children.
- Often difficult to diagnose.