MARSING, Idaho — Paiyton Parker is a seven-year-old, and a student at Marsing Elementary School. She is one of four siblings; she has a brother and two sisters. She loves school, and she loves horses.
Last year, Paiyton was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, called desmoplastic small round cell tumors, or DSRCT. Her tumors were spotted in her stomach and liver.
It all started in February of last year, Paiyton had a terrible stomachache that just wasn't going away.
"I freaked out and told my parents, they had to take me to the doctor, and I wasn't feeling very well," Paiyton said.
Doctors couldn't figure out what was causing the pain at first. Paiyton's mom Chealee Parker thought it had to be appendicitis.
"There was something wrong, you could see it," Chealee said. "It was her stomach; it was very distended."
Paiyton had a CT scan, and that's when doctors finally discovered what the problem was.
"The doctor came in and had this horrible look on his face, and he took me out of the room," Chealee said. "He said she has tumors all throughout her abdomen, her stomach was full of them."
It was the worst possible news. Paiyton remembers that day well.
"They said I had a tumor in my belly, and they said it's cancer," Paiyton said.
Hearing the word cancer was hard enough for Paiyton's parents, but the news got worse. The cancer was rare, and it was deadly.
"She had four tumors in her liver, and they classified that as terminal," Justin Parker, Paiyton's dad, said. "They said it would be a losing battle. But they did say with chemotherapy, there would be some tumor shrinkage, so don't lose hope."
Her parents refused to give up, they went into fight mode. Paiyton started chemotherapy right away.
"Then, it was scan after scan after scan after scan," Chealee said.
During chemotherapy, it was so important to Justin and Chealee to keep her spirits up.
"She hated being away," Chealee said.
Paiyton was spending so much time at the hospital, she missed her family, and she was getting depressed.
"I just wanted to be with my family the whole entire time, and when they took me to the hospital, and I couldn't be with them, it just felt heartbroken," Paiyton said.
Her parents had her medical team arrange treatments so she could spend more time at home with her siblings and at school with her friends. That did the trick. There was a major shift.
"She went from what's the point, to our Paiyton that we knew again," Chealee said. "You couldn't stop her, she had so much energy, and we didn't want to stop that."
The Parkers created a Facebook page called Super Paiyton to update family and friends about what they were going through.
"We were looking for some positivity during a dark time, we just didn't expect it to grow like it did," Chealee said.
"We'd show her the page, and we'd say look at all these people cheering you on! It would help pick her spirits up, and give her more reason to never give up," Justin said.
People all over Idaho follow along on her journey, and they often send Paiyton and her siblings mail and care packages.
"I want to say thank you," Paiyton said. "It makes me feel so happy."
Her parents were overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, and even strangers.
"It was very heartwarming and touching, we didn't expect that at all," Chealee said.
"We could never pay back everything you guys did for us, we can never say thank you enough, or show enough gratitude for what everybody has done for us," Justin said.
In August, Paiyton had yet another scan to check on the dangerous tumors in her liver. They were really nervous about what they were going to see. That's when her parents say a miracle happened.
"The doctor looked at it, and he was speechless," Justin said. "We're hanging on every word, and he said they are gone, I have no explanation the tumors are just gone. The whole game changed after that."
Now, Paiyton was suddenly eligible for an aggressive surgery that could save her life. But the surgery was not available here in Idaho. Dr. Nathan Meeker, a pediatric oncologist at St. Luke's Children's Hospital immediately got on the phone with hospitals out of state.
"He put in a lot of effort to try to get the surgery, a lot of back-and-forth calls," Chealee said. "Salt Lake said they would do it."
Paityon and her parents went to Utah for the surgery earlier this year.
It's called HIPEC. A targeted surgical technique that attacks abdominal cancer. First, Paiyton had surgery to remove any tumors in her stomach, then her abdominal cavity was bathed in a heated, highly concentrated chemotherapy wash to eliminate any cancer.
"She did really well, but it was a long twelve hours of surgery for us," Chealee said. "When you are staring at these brown OR doors, and wondering is everything okay? We were waiting and waiting and waiting, and finally we were like can we please just see her? When we did see her, that was really tough for both of us, she was three times her size swollen, restrained, and on a ventilator."
Paiyton was on the ventilator for four days. Then, progress. She started to breathe again on her own.
"When she woke up, she wanted bubble gum ice cream, and we were like ok, whatever you want," Justin said.
Her surgeon was amazed at her recovery. The Parkers were able to bring their daughter home to Idaho a week later.
When we caught up with her several weeks after her homecoming at Jabbers in Nampa, she was filled with energy, and so happy to be playing with her brother and sister.
"It feels good," she said. "It feels like I'm back!"
Since then, Paiyton underwent radiation, the last step in her treatment plan. It hasn't been easy, she is struggling to regain weight and get stronger. She still has quite a fight ahead of her.
But, Paiyton and her parents will never give up, and she has a message for other kids fighting cancer.
"I want to say you are doing a good job, keep eating! Keep doing what you are supposed to do. So, you can lose the cancer and you can be free," she said.
There is a GoFundMe for Paiyton's family, to help cover their overwhelming expenses and some medications that aren't covered by insurance.
Paiyton still loves getting Super Paiyton mail. She has a wish list, and you can send her something special.
The Parker's mailing address is:
12459 Feedlot Drive
Melba, Idaho 83641
KTVB is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.
Download the KTVB mobile app to get breaking news, weather and important stories at your fingertips.
Watch more Local News:
See the latest news from around the Treasure Valley and the Gem State in our YouTube playlist: