Meet Piper and Peyton
Diagnosed Against the Odds
“It’s just a bug.”
"Wow… are you a first-time mom?"
“You are really blowing a small stomach bug out of proportion."
Piper's mother Kimberly heard these words from both nurses and physicians in every hospital emergency room in Phoenix that she and Piper visited the weekend Piper’s cancer revealed itself.
The previous week, Kimberly watched Piper's deteriorating health intently and by the weekend it was clear to Mom that something much bigger was wrong with her then six-year-old daughter than just a common stomach virus or cold. However, not one emergency room physician in the Greater Phoenix area diagnosed her symptoms correctly or even thought to ask for the correct tests to even begin to identify the real problem.
Finally, after a tough weekend for Piper, Mom carried her daughter into the pediatrician’s office bright and early Monday morning. She told them she would not leave the office until the doctor told them what was wrong with Piper.
Turns out a mom’s intuition never fails. The doctor ran a handful of tests and found a huge mass on her kidney. He immediately told mom and dad to pack up and drive to the children’s hospital to admit Piper for treatment. That Monday night specialists at Mesa Cardon Children’s Hospital concluded that Piper did have an aggressive form of cancer known as neuroblastoma.
Covid Tears the Family Apart
Now imagine that you are a six-year-old girl and you have just received a positive cancer diagnosis and literally 15 minutes after receiving the news, your entire family is immediately kicked out of the hospital and told to go home. Goodbye.
At that time, COVID restrictions were at such a height that patients were only allowed one family member to accompany them inside the hospital. Everyone else, out.
Piper and her mom stayed at the hospital before Piper’s first surgery. Everyone else, including Dad and her twin sister, Peyton, left the hospital premises immediately per COVID policy and headed home where they would wait for news.
This was the first time in their life that Piper and Payton spent a night without the other.
Mom and Piper’s first stay lasted 17 days and surgery shocked Piper’s delicate body. She lost her left kidney, adrenal gland, and had to learn to build up muscles to walk again.
After the initial stay at Mesa Cardon Children's and with the toll the surgery and treatment already took on Piper, Mom began to research the specific form of cancer in Piper's diagnosis.
She quickly found one hospital in the world that was revolutionizing neuroblastoma treatment and had a generally higher success rate with pediatric cancer patients than any other.
That hospital was Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK Kids) in New York City.
Piper and Peyton: At Home in Arizona
Piper, Peyton Kimberly and Madison.
Before we continue deeper into Piper's journey, it’s worthwhile to understand a bit more about these two current eight-year-old sisters and their life prior to Piper’s diagnosis.
Piper and Peyton are twin sisters very much like many sets of twin sisters you might find anywhere in the world. The two girls love being together.
Together, they hike all over the land they live on. Together, they ride bikes all day long.Together, they watch Polly Pocket and play Minecraft. Together, the girls love to play with the brand-new golden retriever puppies gifted to them in December last year.
Together, Piper and Peyton can do just about anything.
The Owner – Dog Relationship
Piper’s puppy is Malibu.
Peyton’s puppy is Canyon.
A Shared Love for Fashion and Styling (and Bows!)
Beyond puppy time, the girls share a love for clothing, especially styling their own outfits. Both are complimentary of the other’s styling choices.
Since chemo took Piper’s hair, she has opted out of the wig world. Instead, she has embraced a world of bald jokes and 'bow of the month' clubs. Peyton cannot get over how cute her sister looks with the bows as a part of Piper's new stylish look. Peyton will let you know how much she loves them and then she will tell you again.
Now, back to the story.
Arizona Medical Team Overruled
In a private meeting with doctors at Mesa Cardon Children’s Hospital, Piper’s dad explained that money should not come into play when deciding where and how Piper should be treated.
The medical team overseeing her treatment consistently batted down the idea of the family seeking further help in NYC at Memorial Sloan Kettering. They told Piper’s family that the expense would outweigh the effectiveness of the treatment and you might come home unsuccessful and destitute.
Piper’s parents tuned out the noise and focused on Piper's health.
From that moment, Piper’s family was determined to get her the best treatment with the best chance of beating this beast. It didn’t matter the location or the price tag. Mom, and Dad wouldn’t allow Piper anything but world-class care.
The next day they reached out to Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Taking the Leap that Saves Lives
Piper and family continued to work with the team in Phoenix while simultaneously conversing with a doctor at Memorial Sloan Kettering long distance.
Four months passed and Piper came in for another scan. The new results looked devastating.
In October of 2021, the neuroblastoma had spread to 18 different places in Piper’s body. This included her spinal cord, liver, pelvis, all over her lungs, and even at the base of the brain stem. It had taken over.
For Piper’s parents, this was the moment of truth. It was time to ditch the Children’s Oncology Program in Phoenix and take a giant leap of faith (that was going to cost a whole lot more money) choosing the more updated and less intrusive protocol that the doctor offered at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Piper and family travelled to NYC in July 2022 to begin treatment. Within a month, they had blown through most of their savings on NYC hotels and travel. Piper's parents were not going to allow the treatment at MSK to end prematurely, but they truly did not see how they were going to continue to pay for it all.
It's Called Ronald McDonald House New York
Then a mother at MSK told Kimberly about a well-known secret around the hospital and at the same time their social worker made the same suggestion that would change everything.
They recommended that the family stay at Ronald McDonald House New York or ‘The Ronald’ as they called it.
Piper and her family moved into RMH-NY in August of 2022 and have stayed at the House two weeks out of every month since.
Where Sisters Get to be Sisters… Together.
The best part of moving into Ronald McDonald House New York was that the entire family was welcome and even encouraged to come to NYC and live in the House while Piper was in treatment.
The devastation, sadness, and loneliness that Piper and Peyton felt not getting to see one another for weeks at a time while Piper at home in Arizona, was now a distant and hopefully soon forgotten memory.
Now, Piper might spend the day at the hospital in treatment. However, when she returns in the evening on transportation provided by the House, she is greeted in the Ronald McDonald House New York lobby by her sister and her dad. Even the twins big sister, Madison, visits the House to boost morale when her busy high school schedule permits.
At RMH-NY, the girls act like most other sets of eight-year-old twin sisters. Together, Piper and Peyton get to eat three meals a day in our second-floor dining room. Together, they get to play dress-up or make slime in the
House playroom. In the House, the girls get to, once again, take on the world as sisters, side-by-side, together.
Ronald McDonald House New York Favorites
Spotlight: The Cafeteria/The Dining Room
The cafeteria is, far and away, Piper's favorite place in the House. She loves the community aspect of it all and boy does she love the food. If you can’t find Piper in and around the House, check the 2nd floor dining room. Bets are that she is hiding in one of the many full-service kitchens chowing down on yesterday’s leftovers or just having a meal and a laugh with her family.
Spotlight: The Playroom
First off, according to Piper and Peyton, Nadia is da bomb. Nadia is our Children’s and Enrichment Programs Coordinator, and founder of the popular Slime Time. She has invented so many other amazing, uplifting, and educational programs for the House. Watch Nadia in action.
They love Nadia and Slime Time so much, Piper and Peyton can tell you the exact ingredients needed and steps one must take to replicate their Slime Time experiences.
With the playroom having moved from the basement and becoming the second-floor neighbor of the Cafeteria recently, Piper and Peyton can have all their favorites right there together on the second floor of Ronald McDonald House New York. Easy access.
at Hoppy Spring
Special Events at RMH-NY
To hear that Piper and Peyton love mealtimes in the dining room or making slime with Nadia is a great encouragement to RMH-NY's everyday event planning gurus. However, Ronald McDonald House New York relishes in the moments when we get to produce special event that truly become a moment no family member could ever forget. We like to celebrate when we can and produce these moments as often as possible throughout the year.
In the spring of 2023, while Piper, Peyton and family stayed in the House and Piper was in the final stages of treatment, the family participated in two events the House produced.
The first fun event was Hoppy Spring. In celebration of Springtime and the incoming warmer weather, RMH-NY holds a fun event annually where the spring bunny visits all the kids in the House. The FDNY volunteers to bring a truck (and a full squad of firemen) to the House. Then, they hoist a life-size furry human bunny up to the windows of each family's room and lets the bunny give a personal hello to all the kids midair.
Piper and Peyton witnessed the bunny's rise firsthand this year and even took family photos with it.
Piper at Hoppy Spring
Second, during a quick Friday lunch in March, Chris Pratt, star of the Mario Bros. Movie, the Guardians of the Galaxy series, and known for the character, Andy Dwyer, on the NBC sitcom Parks and Rec, came to the House. During lunch, he autographed, and gave away Super Mario Bros. toys to the kids, and met every family personally.
Piper and Peyton got to meet and talk with Chris. They did quite a bit of laughing too. It was obvious that his presence was a huge morale booster for all the families currently staying at the House.
Yet, if there is one thing that is better than having a moviestar in the House or a bunny in your window, it's the security of knowing that your entire family is close to you every day, supporting you in every way.
Keeping the Family Close
Families like Garrett, Kimberly, Piper, and Peyton embody the idea that when you keep your family close in dark times, those times will never feel quite so dark. Plus, social needs most might not even think about are met (and avoid becoming an issue) when a family is together. For a child with a serious illness, that makes all the difference between treatment success versus failure.
Ronald McDonald House New York builds a strong, compassionate circle of support around each family that is served. Through our robust and always-changing kid and caregiver programs and hospitality-driven services, RMH-NY eases the burden and helps families focus on what is paramount: their child’s health.
Today, Piper, Peyton and Mom still stay in the House from time to time for the last vaccine phases of treatment, but together they have almost completely eradicated Piper's cancer.
Her family rallied around her, and Ronald McDonald House New York supported their efforts giving them everything they needed to safely and successfully rally. This made sure the family could focus on Piper's health first.
Your donations give RMH-NY the ability to provide 360-degree care to each family in the House and across New York City.