St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital helps families in times of crisis It appeared as though Florida preschooler Payton had stuck something up her nose. The three-year-old’s parents could see it inside her left nostril. So they took her to the pediatrician, who sent them to an ear, nose and throat specialist. “He did a surgery to remove a foreign object,” recalls Payton’s mom, Taylor. “And there was no foreign object. It was a tumor.” Payton’s parents learned their child had cancer the day after her third birthday. In the same conversation, Payton’s doctor said he was sending her to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® in Memphis, Tennessee. Doctors often send their toughest cases to St. Jude because the hospital has the world's best survival rates for some of the most aggressive forms of childhood cancers. Payton’s cancer was a type called rhabdomyosarcoma, which affects soft tissue such as muscles. In Payton’s case, the cancer was in her sinus cavity. St. Jude doctors targeted the cancer with chemotherapy and proton therapy, which directs high-dose radiation at cancer cells with astounding precision, reducing harm to surrounding healthy cells. St. Jude is home to the world’s first proton therapy center solely for children. This world-class care is provided by St. Jude at no cost to families. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food. All a family should worry about is helping their child live. Taylor, who held down two jobs prior to Payton’s diagnosis, says, “It’s very scary to find out that your child has cancer, plus to imagine the financial aspect of that. So it was a huge relief to learn we wouldn’t receive a bill.” Proton therapy was the best radiation therapy for Payton to receive, but it wasn’t easy on her. She received six weeks of proton therapy, five days a week, and in order to stay still during the treatment, Payton was sedated each time. But St. Jude also provided supportive therapies, such as physical therapy, and Payton has been returning to her energetic, busy self and frequents the play areas in the hospital. Her treatment is working, and Payton has just 12 more weeks of chemotherapy to go before she can return home. “I’m hopeful that we’ll see our sweet little Payton back to normal,” Taylor says.
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