The youngsters formed the strongest of friendships while going through cancer treatments at the Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Payson Altice and Mack Porter — and their families — were going through a really difficult time when fate brought them together. The youngsters, who are both 3-years-old, were both being treated for different forms of cancer at Phoenix Children's Hospital earlier this year and feeling pretty lonely since COVID-19 restrictions made it almost impossible for them to spend time with their friends and family. Fortunately, their paths crossed when Mack's mother, Dani Porter, noticed a "spunky" little girl parading down the hall with giant mylar balloons. "I just knew Mack would like her," she told TODAY.
Later that day, Porter approached Payson's mom, Traci Barrett, to invite them to a walk with her and Mack. "The playroom and the family room were closed because of COVID," she explained. The impromptu playdate turned out to be a big success as the children instantly became the best of friends. Barrett, who is a hairstylist, can't talk about Payson and Mack's friendship without tearing up. "Payson was so isolated. It was so hard to meet people because of the pandemic. She was asking for new toys every five minutes," she recalled. "And then Mack came along."
Mack, who is the youngest of four siblings, was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) in January after exhibiting subtle symptoms of lethargy, decreased appetite, respiratory distress, and a small rash. Payson, on the other hand, was diagnosed with B cell ALL Leukemia, just two weeks after her 3rd birthday in September. With IV lines attached to their little bodies, the duo bonded over their love of Peppa Pig. While Payson introduced Mack to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mack taught Payson some of the cool dance moves he'd learned from his older sisters.
"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.'" Fortunately, both Mack and Payson are now in remission. However, when Mack finished his cancer treatments at the hospital and returned home, all he wanted was to go back to the "doctor house" to see his best friend. "Every morning, his first question was, 'When can I play with Payson?'" revealed Porter. The day finally arrived last month on July 21 when the youngsters' parents arranged for them to meet for the first time outside of the hospital.
Their emotional reunion was captured in a now-viral video where Mack presented Payson with a bouquet of flowers that he chose himself. The two friends hugged and later slow-danced danced together in Payson's kitchen. Porter revealed that her son spent the morning setting up for the playdate and picking out toys he thought Payson would love. The best friends, who live 30 minutes away from each other in Arizona, also went swimming together last week. "It's just a really special relationship," Porter said. "That was a blessing to just watch our children be children," she told ABC News.
Payson's mom agreed, adding that the two children set an inspiring example for how to get through tough situations. "During these scary and hard times," she said. "No matter what, just look to the children because they'll lead the way." Following the viral success of Payson and Mack's reunion video, their families have set up a fundraiser to support other children fighting cancer. "Supporting two 3-year-olds through their battles against cancer isn't something we ever imagined our families would have to face. But, watching Payson and Macky's relationship blossom over the past year has shown us the power of friendship and support in pushing us through our darkest days," they wrote.
"Over 430 children every year are confronted with the life-changing Cancer diagnosis at Phoenix Children's Hospital. While Payson and Macky finally had their opportunity to reunite and dance, many of those patients are still fighting. In honor of Phoenix Children’s annual 'Step Up. Stop Cancer.' campaign, we invite you to join us in reuniting more families with remission by supporting the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Phoenix Children's" they added. You can donate to this campaign here. You can also donate to Payson and Macky's GoFundMe campaigns here and here.