A Special Bond
- 3-year-olds Mack Porter and Payson Altice became best friends while undergoing treatment at the same time for blood cancer at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona.
- Now both in remission, Mack and Payson have reunited outside of the hospital, and now share the ultimate bond.
- In general, having a blood cancer means that your bone marrow is not functioning correctly, according to a top expert.
Mack noticed “spunky” Payson in the hall carrying giant balloons. “I just knew Mack would like her,” mom Dani Porter recalled to writer Rachel Paula Abrahamson with TODAY Parents.
Later that day, Porter asked Payson’s mom, Traci Barrett, if they would be up for going for a walk since the playroom and family room were closed due to COVID.
Mack finished his treatment first. “Every morning, his first question was, ’When can I play with Payson?’” Porter said.
Reunited and It Feels So Good
Last month, Mack and Payson were finally able to see each other again, and this time they were both in remission, a joyous occasion for the budding besties. Both cancer warriors will be starting preschool this fall.
TODAY’s Morning Boost captured the sweet reunion on camera with Mack giving Payson some flowers that he picked out—after apparently spending the morning debating over which toys he should bring for his friend. The pair embraced and Mack began executing some smooth moves.
YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND IN ME!
Best friends Macky & Payson are so happy see each other for the 1st time outside the hospital walls❤️😭
— GoodNewsCorrespondent (@GoodNewsCorres1) August 10, 2021
Payson’s mom is continually emotional over the special friendship.
“Payson was so isolated. It was so hard to meet people because of the pandemic. She was asking for new toys every five minutes,” Barrett said. “And then Mack came along.”
Payson introduced Mack to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they both shared exchanges over Peppa Pig. Mack even showed Payson some of his dance moves. All of these activities took place as the children had IVs attached to their bodies.
“Traci and I were both teary watching them just be kids,” Porter said. “As soon as Mack got up from his nap he was like, ‘I need to find Payson and bring her a present.’”
Mack and Payson happen to live only a half hour away from each other and have had a follow-up play date at the pool.
The moms shared that it’s “indescribable” and “just a really special relationship.”
We can’t wait to see the places that Mack and Payson will go.
Pediatric Cancer—Signs to Look Out For
Before little Mack was diagnosed with cancer on January 20, 2021, he was “showing signs of lethargy, a small rash, decreased appetite, and signs of respiratory distress,” according to the Porter family’s GoFundMe. Originally, doctors thought it might be asthma or pneumonia, but then discovered a large mass in his tiny body after a chest X-ray, and he was admitted into the pediatric ICU the same day.
It took some time to come up with a treatment plan since they were not sure what type of cancer it was at first. Finally, in early February, “Macky” started chemotherapy treatment for ALCL, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that develops from white blood cells.
Luckily, Mack has since been able to come home and resume life with his three older siblings.
Payson’s Battle with Leukemia
Payson was diagnosed in September with leukemia, which is one of the most common types of cancer in children. By the end of the year, she had spent 50 days in the hospital.
Leukemia develops when the body produces large quantities of abnormal white blood cells. Because they’re abnormal, they prevent the bone marrow from producing any other type of cell, namely red blood cells and platelets.
Dr. Nina Shah, a hematologist at University of California San Francisco, explains blood cancers in a simple way. “One cell got really selfish and decided that it needed to take up all the resources of everybody else, and in doing so, took up space and energy from the rest of the body.”
“In general having a blood cancer means that your bone marrow is not functioning correctly,” she continues. “And when your bone marrow doesn’t function correctly it means that you can have something happen to you like anemia. Or you can have low platelets, which makes it possible for you to bleed easily. Or your immune system is not functioning correctly.”
As of the beginning of March of this year, Payson was officially 6 months into chemotherapy, according to an update from her parents on her fundraiser page. “The stage she’s in right now is 2 weeks of at home chemo and then 4 days in the hospital, repeat,” the Altices wrote.
“She’s been doing really well,” they added. “She just learned to ride her 3 wheeler and her scooter!! She’s obsessed with the scooter. She loves playing make believe, dress up, dolls and just allllll the girly things! 🙂 Her favorite food is ravioli. And basically just only raviolis.”
They explained that they would be in that phase of treatment for the rest of the month, then into a much harder phase at the end of the month. “This version of chemotherapy crashes the immune system, and we will be in complete lock down for 60 days.”
After a setback in May with little Payson going back in the hospital, she is finally able to enjoy life at home once again, and we wish her continued strength and health. Hopefully with her future partner, Mack.