SYRACUSE, Utah (ABC4) — “Cancer” is a scary word, and it’s a word that millions of families know all too well. That word has been at the center of one Syracuse family’s daily lives for the last year and a half.
However, this Saturday they’re asking the community to take part in a drive-by parade to celebrate their 12-year-old daughter’s victory. Payton Himle beat brain cancer.
The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be nearly two million new cancer cases in the U.S. by the end of the year. Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the county. Sadly, there will be an estimated 600,000 deaths this year directly caused by cancer.
While many families experience loss, others will beat the odds. The Himle family is one of those that will make it out okay.
“That’s my best friend,” Payton Himle squealed while looking through pictures with her mother. They flipped through pictures that were taken over the last year and a half. Pictures that document a journey full of lows, but also with highs.
“Terrified!” Payton exclaimed. Her mother, Jessica Himle added, “She wasn’t sick.”
Nearly two years ago, Payton went to Lagoon Amusement Park with some friends. At the time, she was having some hearing issues and part of her face was feeling weak. She was scheduled to go on a trip with some friends, in just two days. Her parents decided it would be best to get her into a doctor’s office in between the fun.
That visit was anything but fun. “They tell me she has a tumor the size of two golf balls, and they wouldn’t let us leave,” Jessica told ABC4. She added that she didn’t believe the doctors because her daughter, other than the hearing issues, hadn’t been sick nor showed serious symptoms.
“I was of course scared; everyone was scared, and I just didn’t know what to expect,” Payton stated.
The Hilmes said Payton would need brain surgery to remove the large tumor. That was followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Payton added: “The hardest part was probably the surgery because of just getting over that, relearning how to do everything I know was really hard.” Payton told ABC4 that she basically turned into a baby after surgery and had to relearn how to eat, talk and walk.
Payton’s parents said they stayed “annoyingly optimistic” in front of their daughter. However, there were days when that was hard to do. “The day that she started losing her hair,” Payton’s dad Brandon said through tears. The family has a picture of that day. Brandon is holding Payton after she, and the men in the family, had shaved their heads. The emotion in the picture is almost tangible.
Having to live through some of the darkest days of their lives, the Himles said they learned a lesson everyone should remember. “Everyone deserves some grace,” Jessica said. “You don’t know what people are going through.”
The dark days were often drowned out with bright ones. Payton’s parents told ABC4 that kind acts from those around them helped make a difference. Often, those acts were from complete strangers who happened to hear about Payton’s diagnosis. This was another life lesson. “We should be that for everybody else, you know and just really look at other people’s problems and internalize them so that we can be the good for each other,” Brandon said.
Payton has her last treatment in two weeks which, she said, has her feeling: “I don’t even know, excited. I’m feeling, also, a little bit sad because I’m going to miss all my friends in the hospital.”
For others facing a new cancer diagnosis the brave 12-year-old has some advice. “Think of all the good that comes from it instead of all the bad and scary stuff,” she stated. “Think of the good stuff.”
Payton still faces lots of physical therapy (half of her face is still partially paralyzed). She will also have follow-up appointments with her doctors for the foreseeable future to make sure the cancer stays at bay. But for now, she is just excited to finally get back to school. In fact, she decided to return to class a little earlier than she was supposed to so that she could participate in “Twin Day” with her friends.
On Saturday, Oct. 7, the community is invited to come out and celebrate Payton with a drive-by parade. They are encouraged to decorate their vehicles in pink and mint green. However, if they can’t, some decorations will be available to use starting at 6:00 p.m. At 7:00 p.m., the parade will make its way from the meeting place to Payton’s home a few blocks away.
For those wanting to help Payton celebrate, meet in front of the LDS chapel at 1600 S 4500 W in Syracuse. Payton will be anxiously awaiting. “I’m most excited about, I don’t know, I like people,” she said through a giggle. “So, I’m just going to see a bunch of people. I’m most excited about that.”