Payton was born in 2013. She was our miracle baby!

When I was 29 years old and four weeks pregnant with our first child, I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. During this time, there wasn’t a lot of research on what to do with someone diagnosed so early in their pregnancy and starting chemo treatments. The potential effects on an early pregnancy would be malformations and an unviable pregnancy. We were able to have a lumpectomy which bought me time to start chemotherapy during my second trimester.

Payton was born at 36 weeks weighing 4lbs 7oz. She was born with a unilateral cleft lip and cleft palate. She spent one week in the newborn intensive care unit. Since then, Payton had undergone several surgeries over the years, she has the sweetest disposition and is always worried about and thinking of others.

Today, Payton is eight years old and going into the 4th grade. She is starting to begin the dental/oral part of her journey. She has a bone graft surgery coming up soon for her gum and has an appointment set for her expander and then braces.

I say all of this to give you a small glimpse of her journey. She’s had many hurdles to jump, but this girl never ceases to amaze me. As for most children born with a cleft palate, speech doesn’t come easy. It certainly didn’t for Payton. She has worked so hard.

A testament to how hard Payton has worked evidenced itself this past fall, as Payton’s entire school was required to participate in a school speech meet for each grade level. Payton won! She and other selected winners from her school went on to a regional level where Payton won there, too! Not only did she win Blue Ribbon for her category, but she also won Judge’s Choices and the only highest score possible to win! She then went on to deliver her speech in front of the hundreds of judges, parents, and participants of the regional speech meet.

To know where she started and where she is today is beyond words. I’m thankful for the teams of surgeons and speech therapists and other doctors who never give up. Parents — keep working with your children and never give up. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon! Moments like this one and the love we have for our children are the reasons we keep fighting and never stop advocating for them.