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Leukemia for Dummies

You know, it’s been a while since I did this, but there has been a sudden influx of new readers who may not know what the big deal is about all the follow up angst I suffer with each monthly oncology visit for Peyton.

So, here’s a quick “Cliff Notes to Peyton and Leukemia”.


Peyton’s first hospital stay at diagnosis, 2 1/2 years old

Peyton was diagnosed in July 2006 and her official diagnosis was Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia CNS positive. Leukemia is a blood cancer, which means instead of cancers that are solid tumors like breast cancer or brain tumors, it is already spread throughout the entire body upon discovery.


Just 30 days into treatment

It’s the most common form of the most common type of cancer that affect children under twenty-one.  It has the highest success rate of treatment as well.

She did two and half years of chemotherapy protocols and radiation to her brain.

The treatment is fast, nonstop and brutal on the body. We may not know the full extent of side effects for years to come…there may never be any obvious ones…but she’ll always run the risk of secondary cancers, brain tumors from the radiation, neurological issues and learning problems to name a few possibilities. We TRY not to worry about those things until there are things to worry about.


She made bald look good

We finished up her treatment in November 2008 and she has been successfully maintaining remission.


We were told that the most common time frame for a relapse of her type of cancer is in the first eighteen months after the end of treatment…so suffice it to say I agonize over every clinic visit. {5 months down!}  This *could* be the one, those *could* have been symptoms, I *could* just be completely insane of my own doing.

And, blessedly, each month we’ve been able to walk away from the clinic knowing that her cancer is still in remission.


They don’t use the word “cured” until five years out from the end of treatment. FIVE freaking years!

I would love to be able to tell you that I am confident that we are done with this cancer in our lives beyond these monthly checkups.  I may never be.

We have seen far too many of Peyton’s young friends have Leukemia relapses…I’ve attended far too many funerals for kids that have the cancer with the highest rate of success.

Nothing is 100%.

So, when I walk her into the clinic for her fingerpoke, those results aren’t just a relief…they are our hope.  The longer she remains cancer free, the better her chances are of a lifetime with no disease.

And just for old time sake, her counts today?

Today: White Blood Count (part of the blood that fights infections): 8000

Normal: WBC is between  6000-17000

At the time of diagnosis: 45,000

Today: Hemoglobin (the part of your blood that carries oxygen to your body): 13.4

Normal: HGB is between 10-13.5

At the time of diagnosis, hers was 4

Today: Platelets (the part of your blood that makes you able to clot so you don’t bleed to death): 250K

Normal: platelet count is between 150K-450K

At time of diagnosis hers was 8K

Today: ANC (her ability to fight off infection): 3100

Normal:  ANC is between 2500-8500

At time of diagnosis hers was 450

I know that was totally confusing (and those are just the highlights), but IF you got it…her current counts are ROCKING!  Her body is really bouncing back from the effects of the chemo and is just constantly healing and fighting its way back to a healthy state. It’s AWESOME to see.

And for a few more weeks we breathe easy that all is right in Peyton’s body. She fought it and won.

Now we just pray it never comes back. E.V.E.R.

Peyton at the clinic from Anissa Mayhew on Vimeo.

ps…..I’m totally sounded like a medical professional there, yo!

pss…just don’t ask me any math questions, I might have to start throwing punches.

psss…I got my medical degree off Google, so don’t ask me for advice

*seriously, though, if you have any questions about Peyton’s diagnosis, treatment or overall crazy mother, feel free to ask*

30 Comments on “Leukemia for Dummies”

  1. #1 pgoodness
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Awesome numbers! And she is beautiful!!!

    pgoodnesss last blog post..Mom {Potty} – 0, Preston – 1

  2. #2 Amy@UWM
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 8:08 am

    I SO know what it is like to live and die by those counts and I can’t tell you how PSYCHED I am to see Peyton’s counts so strong. Seeing what a trooper she was at her finger “pokey” just made me cry. She is truly a cancer veteran. Congratulations on such great news. Told ya that God was saving this as your big break for the month.

    Amy@UWMs last blog post..Ode to My Pottery Barn Whiteboard Calendar

  3. #3 Maria
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 8:16 am

    I held my breath while I read the numbers, even though I knew the news was good.

    Marias last blog post..it’s not just because she could kick my ass

  4. #4 Jen
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Even though I’ve already said it – YAY FOR PEYTON!!! I’m so glad that the tests came back so good. We were all in need of a little happy so thanks for sharing with us. Smooches!

    Jens last blog post..Randome Tuesday Thoughts

  5. #5 Sarah @ Ordinary Days
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 8:40 am

    So glad to hear her numbers are all good! And thanks for the tutorial. 🙂

    Sarah @ Ordinary Dayss last blog post..The Funk, She Has Lifted

  6. #6 Haley-O
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Wow, what an inspiration — both you and your beautiful daughter. Thank you so much for sharing this and bringing awareness — and enabling us to hope with you and pray. 🙂

    Haley-Os last blog post..New Job, Fat Tigger, & Other Earth Day Sundries

  7. #7 Jodee
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 9:28 am


    Thank you for the update on your blog. I am one of your new readers. I am so happy that Peyton had a good report this month. I will pray she continues to get good reports. I know how painful Leukemia can be. I lost my best friend at age 20.. so I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    Jodee =-)

    Jodees last blog post..Hugh Jackman, Twitter and Maddie Spohr

  8. #8 Ami Czorapinski
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Those are AWESOME counts! And remind Peyton how lucky she is to just get a finger poke. When Joshua gets his port removed, Hopkins still does vein sticks. No finger pokes here. 🙁 I just love how she is smiling through the whole thing though. That’s one tough cookie. Way to go Peyton!!

  9. #9 Caroline
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Thank you for posting this. I’m new to your world and I am so glad to “meet” your daughter and READ THOSE AWESOME COUNTS!!!!! She’s a beauty by the way. Praying for these five years to pass full of fun and with more counts just like todays.

    Carolines last blog post..Share Earth Day with Your Children Everyday

  10. #10 themaggers
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Those counts are great!! It’s so amazing to have seen Peyton’s progress to this point she has come sooo far (of course you know that). Her bravery in the face of all this is amazing she is truly an inspiration to all those who read her story . I will keep Peyton your self and the entire family in my prayers for her continued health! *hugs*

    themaggerss last blog post..For Maddie

  11. #11 Caffeinatrix
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 11:02 am

    What a trooper—brave AND completely cute. Can’t wait to meet you, Peyton!

    Caffeinatrixs last blog post..You Know What Really Sucks?

  12. #12 Stephanie
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 11:29 am

    She is beautiful. YOU are beautiful.


  13. #13 Julie
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    So happy her counts were great!!!!!

  14. #14 Dana
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    LOL. When I read her WBC, I instantly thought “What are her SEG’s?”

    Thank you for documenting this torturous path for moms like me, 7 weeks into Maintenance.

    Many Blessings,

    Danas last blog post..Home!

  15. #15 Faiqa
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    She is just so beautiful.

    You know, I read your blog, sometimes, and I feel such relief. You and Peyton exemplify how we all have the ability to be strong and hopeful… that no matter what happens, we have to remain that way. Whenever I get caught up in anxieties about what might happen tomorrow with my kids, about sickness, or even problems unrelated to that… I drift over here and read your words.

    You give me strength and, most of all, reassure me that no matter what happens, I’ll deal with it the best way I know how.

    Thanks for that.

    Faiqas last blog post..Secret Shame(s) of My iTunes Revealed

  16. #16 Rhonda
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Totally adorable and so grown up!! I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again PEYTON ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!

    I am SO glad it all went well! Have a GREAT weekend guys!

    Rhondas last blog post..You take my breath away!

  17. #17 Marla
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Congratulations on those awesome numbers. My boyfriend was diagnosed with cancer when he was 16. It came back when he was 20 at stage three. He went through some serious radiation and a stem cell transplant before they got rid of it.

    He’s now 28 and doing great. He goes back for yearly checkup’s and just last month that told him he didn’t have to go back for TWO whole years. That makes me nervous, but whatever.

    Anyway, cancer is scary. I’m glad Peyton is doing so good.

  18. #18 Beverly
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    She looks amazing!

    (Love the trim on the bangs!)

    I’m so thrilled for Peyton…and you too!

    Beverlys last blog post..Beautifully Broken

  19. #19 Shash
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    I’m so glad she’s doing so good with her counts. She is so brave and you guys are so amazing. As a team you are unstoppable! Can’t wait to meet the rest of Team Mayhew this weekend!

    Peyton? You are beautiful and awesome. Just like your mama!

    Shashs last blog post..In Honor of My 20th High School Reunion

  20. #20 Shelley
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    She watches while they poke her with that HUGE pokey thing??? She is BRAVE! And the pink bandaid? Very ladylike. Woo Hoo for the wonderful counts.

    Hugs to you both!

  21. #21 Amanda
    on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Anissa –

    I can’t believe how old she looks! She’s growing up into a beautiful little girl, and i know you are so proud.

  22. #22 Brittany
    on Apr 24th, 2009 at 7:04 am

    I am so happy for you all! Another month closer!!!!

    And sweet Jesus, she is like…SO GROWN UP OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Brittanys last blog post..General Tso’s guide to labor and placenta eating.

  23. #23 Dan Cohen
    on Apr 24th, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    Dear Peyton,

    I am so glad to see that your counts are good today.

    And look at you how you took that finger poke while watching and smiling. Can I tell you a secret just between you and I? Please don’t tell anyone this. But when I give blood, I don’t mind the needle in my arms. BUT I don’t like the finger poke that they do before.

    Sending you a hug,

    Dan Cohen
    North Miami Beach FL

  24. #24 rachel-asouthernfairytale
    on Apr 26th, 2009 at 1:06 am


    Love your guts and you need to do these updates and refreshers every few months. It’s so wonderful and helpful.

    rachel-asouthernfairytales last blog post..Marching For Maddie

  25. #25 Stimey
    on Apr 26th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    You are a wonderful mom and she is an amazing kid. I actually think you write about this with a lot of grace. I can only imagine what a terrifying roller coaster it must be. Here’s to 18 months and five years and then another 70, for good measure.

    Stimeys last blog post..Damn, That Kid is Awsome

  26. #26 sam {temptingmama}
    on Apr 28th, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Those numbers rock my socks! So great!!!

    Surely there will be TON more great numbers in the future.

    sam {temptingmama}s last blog post..CandySam in Indy

  27. #27 maggie, dammit
    on Apr 29th, 2009 at 8:04 am

    That was not AT ALL confusing. It was beautiful and so is she and so are you.

  28. #28 Lucie @ Unconventional Origins
    on Apr 29th, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Oh my god I get all goose-bumpy and teary every time I read about her counts. SO FRICKIN HAPPY she is doing so well. And that pic of her 30 days into treatment? That’s all you – the sparkly eyes, the contagious grin – she has all her mommy’s fire!

    Lucie @ Unconventional Originss last blog post..Michelle Obama and the intersection of racism and sexism

  29. #29 steph
    on May 10th, 2009 at 3:56 am

    im am so plased for you all and just to give you that bit more hope i was in the same situation as payton when was eleven i lost a lot of very close friends but here i am 10yrs on from being diagnosed to tell you my story and try to bring a bit more hope to you i have gone on to have a beautifull daughter agaist the odds and a happy healthy life i got th ALL CLEAR on my 19th birthday best birthday present i could ever receive so i wish you and your family the very best of life from now on and may it be happy and healthy xxxx

  30. #30 Amanda
    on Jun 19th, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Im writing a book over a topic similar to this and id appreciate if you could answer a few questions over peyton’s diagnosis. Such as: did she understand what was going on, how did she feel after treatments, how did you feel/deal with her diagnosis, do you know what caused her disease, and above all else, how is she doing now? Thank you so much in advance for these answers, if any of these questions are too emotionally difficult for you to talk about, then i completely understand.