ST. GEORGE — A 3-year-old girl with a rare form of cancer was honored by her mother and a family friend who ran in the St. George Gobbler race on Thanksgiving morning.
Nicole Gaitan Felton wore a bright yellow shirt with “Parker Power” on it.
“We will be bringing awareness about Parker, my daughter, and we will start a nonprofit,” Felton said. “And any funds we don’t use for her treatment, we’re going to use to help other families in need like this.”
By the time the family learned there was a tumor in Parker’s kidney, the cancer had spread to her lungs. She has a rare disease called a Wilms tumor and is receiving care at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
“We were blindsided. And we had to deal with the cancer right away,” Felton said. “So I want to continue to raise awareness and help others because it is so hard and it’s hard to navigate.”
The family’s grandfather lives in Mesquite, Nevada, and they have spent a lot of time in Southern Utah. Now Nichole and Parker live near Primary Children’s Hospital and her husband and other daughter live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They often drive to Salt Lake City to provide support during Parker’s intense treatment, which will be for the next eight months.
According to the American Cancer Society, “Wilms tumor … is a type of childhood cancer that starts in the kidneys. It is the most common type of kidney cancer in children. About 9 of 10 kidney cancers in children are Wilms tumors.”
Felton said that she found in her research that childhood cancer is considered rare and the government does not fund it very well. She said about 4% of the billions of dollars of cancer research goes toward childhood cancer cures.
A bright spot for the family has been the hospital music therapy program. Felton said Parker enjoys playing on a drum to the song “Some Things Never Change” from the movie “Frozen II.”
“That was the first time I broke down after we had arrived at the hospital just hearing them play that song because it’s so relevant to this situation,” Nichole said.
Lyrics from the song “Some Things Never Change”:
“The winds are restless
Could that be why I’m hearing this call?
Is something coming?
I’m not sure I want things to change at all
These days are precious
Can’t let them slip away
I can’t freeze this moment
But I can still go out and seize this day.”
According to the Journal of Clinical Oncology website, “Music medicine is the use of music to reduce negative emotional states and aid in stress management and emotional expression. ” Listening passively or actively to music is an effective intervention for patients undergoing cancer treatment.
“She’s a very sweet, loving kiddo and dealing with this so much better than I would have thought,” Felton said. “But she has had her days, standing over the toilet dr-heaving after chemo and being tired all day. Our life is Groundhog Day right now.”
Felton has another daughter Reese who is 4 years old. She and her dad Cory live in Jackson Hole and visit as often as they can to support Parker going through chemo.
The hospital psychologist told Felton that children are resilient and tend to put things aside faster than adults.
“They might remember it, but they move on a lot quicker than we do,” Felton said. “So try not to dwell on how they might be feeling and worrying constantly about them. Just give them the best experience they can have outside of the hospital.”
Felton said it was difficult when her daughter was sitting in the back seat of the car one day when they were driving to the hospital and commented, “I don’t understand why this is all happening.”
Felton’s advice to other parents in challenging situations is not to overthink everything one sees symptomatically because childhood cancer is uncommon. But she wants to share that there are signs of the tumor that Parker exhibited, including being lethargic and not wanting to play like she used to.
“I think you need to take every day and enjoy what you have because you never know when your life is going to be turned upside down,” Felton said. “Especially if you have kids or family members who are sick. Your days might be limited with them. So, make the time and effort to be patient with them and love them and advocate for them if they are sick and going through something like this.”
Felton said it has been hard financially to stop being a two-income family. She is now providing full-time care for her daughter.
To support Parker’s treatment, click here.
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