On the first morning of a week-long trip to Seattle, Washington last spring, 10-year-old Peyton Wuennenberg complained of shoulder pain.
“Thinking she might have slept on it wrong or something, my first reaction was ‘Peyton, you’re fine’,” says her mom, Kelly. But, as the day progressed, Kelly noticed that Peyton’s appetite wasn’t as it usually was and she seemed too fatigued to enjoy the sites Seattle had to offer.
Those symptoms were joined by a fever and continued when they got home. “It turns out that shoulder pain is a symptom of an enlarged spleen. Peyton’s spleen was fighting off the lymphoblasts that had invaded her abdominal region.”
A hallmark of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), lymphoblasts are cancerous white blood cells that spread throughout the body and shut down the production of normal cells. ALL accounts for approximately 75 percent of all childhood leukemias.
Peyton was diagnosed in April of 2015, and is now in remission and undergoing maintenance therapy at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
As Kelly and Peyton will attest, while ALL can be cured, the road to that cure can be painful and challenging, involving high doses of chemotherapy and steroids. Recognizing that more research into what causes ALL in children could change all that, the Wuennenbergs have thrown every extra ounce of energy they have into the cause.
Pedal the Cause that is. This annual cycling challenge raises funds for cancer research at Siteman Cancer Center and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
“She would stand on the corner in the hot sun this past summer selling lemonade to anyone driving by our house,” Kelly says. “Recently, on a very cold day, she set up a table and was selling coupon books on that same corner, ringing her Pedal the Cause cowbells to get cars to stop. She also held fund-raising events at her school. Nothing would stop Peyton. And a lot of it was all done during the worst of her treatments. Her little sister Taylor (age 9) has been by her side through every single fundraiser.”
That strength inspired the Wuennenberg family’s relatives, friends and neighbors to log onto Peyton’s Pedal the Cause fundraising page (pedalthecause.org) and make a first-time donation. In fact, when the dust settled from last fall’s ride to end all cancer, Peyton emerged on the list of top-ten individual donors, raising more than $17,000.
“I really love all the people who took care of me during my four-week inpatient treatment and want to help raise money that will go to the Children’s Hospital cancer research piggy bank. I am very excited to join Pedal the Cause in the fight against cancer,” her donor profile page says. “Mommy tells me Pedal the Cause is more than the region’s top cycling event. It’s a way of life, a celebration and a movement fueled by the courage to end cancer. I can’t wait to start raising money for the 2016 campaign.”