A 12-Year-Old’s Battle with Brain Cancer; Help a Local Family Navigate This Unimaginably Difficult Time

By: Rachel Norton
| Published 12/11/2020


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- “Don't doubt your kid’s strength,” Shawn Williams said in regard to his 12-year-old son Payton, who is currently battling brain cancer. Payton’s journey began when his teachers noticed that he had trouble reading in class. His school nurse suggested he have his eyesight checked by a professional, so Payton’s mom, Mary Ellen, took him to an eye doctor September 17. Upon examination, the doctor informed her that Payton needed to be rushed to the emergency room right away.

Williams met them at Texas Children’s hospital in the Woodlands, where an MRI was conducted. Areas within Payton’s brain needed further inspection so he was transferred to the down town campus to see a specialist. It was there that two midbrain tumors were discovered. The tumors were obstructing his brain fluid from returning to his spinal chord, which in turn placed immense pressure on his brain.

The situation then became critical. Doctors placed a tube inside Payton’s brain that night to relieve the fluid build up, and drilled a hole in his skull the following day in order to release further pressure and take samples of the masses. Biopsy results showed that the tumors are both germinoma, a rare form of cancer that is most often found in the brain of children between the ages of 10 and 19.

Just weeks after his diagnosis, Payton developed a blood clot that reached from his knee to his upper belly. He was again rushed in for a minor surgery, where doctors vacuumed out the clot and then put him on blood thinners. He has been in physical therapy since to help him regain his strength and mobility.

Payton is currently undergoing radiation treatment that will cease December 17. Even though treatments will stop, remaining radiation will hopefully continue to shrink the tumors. Doctors will take another MRI near the beginning of February to note the level of success, and decide what next steps will need to be taken.

In the meantime, Payton is keeping his spirits high. “He's so strong, he's so happy, he’s so brave,” Williams said. Each time he goes into the hospital he asks the nurses and staff how their day is, and if he hasn’t met them before, he insists that they answer two questions: what is their favorite food and what is their favorite movie?

“He's only broken down twice that I know of,” Williams commented. Once was in reaction to the sadness he saw in his father’s eyes, and the other was when he began to lose his hair. “Everyday is so tough … he doesn’t let anything phase him,” Williams said.

This time has been difficult for their entire family. Not only are they experiencing the weight of worry and fear, but also the financial burden that comes along with medical bills, medications, and transportation costs. The family has set up a fundraising page on Facebook that allows those who feel inclined, to donate.

Williams served as a first responder in the fire service for over 20 years, working for Northwest and Cyfair Fire Department, and is currently employed with Harris County Hazmat. “I'm always helping people, so when this hit me, it was hard for me to ask for help,” Williams said. . “Any donation is greatly appreciated, and it will be greatly used … I just want to make sure Payton is taken care of. He's my only son,” he said.

To reach the fundraising page, click here.
To view and keep up with Payton’s Journey and progress, click here.

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