Peyton Vandanacker, 7, rings her bell surrounded by her family in celebration of the end of her chemotherapy treatment for an aggressive type of leukemia on Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Peyton Vandanacker, 7, rings her bell surrounded by her family in celebration of the end of her chemotherapy treatment for an aggressive type of leukemia on Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

After cancer battle, ‘happy tears’ and celebration for Bothell girl

Peyton Vandanacker, 7, thanked her siblings for helping her through chemotherapy. Firefighters came out to celebrate, too.

BOTHELL — Some people will never have the chance to ride in a fire truck or steal second base at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park.

But 7-year-old Peyton Vandanacker isn’t one of them.

On Saturday, under a shower of streamers and confetti, Vandanacker rang a ceremonial bell to commemorate her biggest accomplishment yet: beating cancer.

She thanked everyone who supported her when she was “feeling icky,” especially her brother Jaxson and her sister Hailey. The three are triplets.

“They always kept me happy,” Peyton Vandanacker said during an interview in her grandparents’ backyard in Bothell. “One time, when I had a bellyache, Jaxson made me laugh. He was acting funny.”

More than two years after being diagnosed with leukemia, Peyton Vandanacker finished her treatment on April 15 – the same day, it just so happens, as the Mariners’ first home game of the season.

Thanks to the baseball team, she got to run through the tunnel and onto the field, along with the Mariner Moose.

Her uncle is a firefighter, and she has always loved watching firetrucks rush to help others. So during Saturday’s celebration, local firefighters took her for a ride.

Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue presented her with a patch and badge, making her an “honorary firefighter.”

“Peyton, you have been through such a battle. You’re such a fighter,” said Peter Mongillo, a spokesman for the fire agency. “We look up to you.”

Friends and family applauded her, wearing t-shirts that said with the hashtag “PeytonStrong.” There were pompoms, wigs, and scrunchies, too, all in purple. It has been her favorite color since she was born. Her parents used the color to distinguish her from her identical sister, who wore pink.

Guests jingled tiny brass bells in her honor. The family offered tissues, marked for use in case of “happy tears.”

It was the caliber of celebration that every kid fighting cancer deserves, said Lil Hastie, Vandanacker’s grandmother.

“Trying to stay positive was hard,” Hastie said. “But it’s worth it now.”

The crowd of friends and family at the party didn’t have to see the horrors of Peyton’s fight, Hastie said. There were tears and gruesome symptoms during the treatment. In those trying months, the family was isolated by the pandemic.

“It’s been such a long time coming,” said Peyton’s father, Jim Vandanacker. “We were wearing masks before it was cool.”

The diagnosis came in November 2019: a rare and aggressive variation of leukemia known as ETP-ALL. Initially, 89 percent of the white blood cells in her bone marrow were cancerous.

But no matter how sick chemotherapy made her, her father said, “she’s never stopped smiling.”

The photos displayed at Saturday’s festivities were ample proof. The pictures show her grinning, even though her long blond hair hadn’t yet grown back and she still had a feeding tube.

“She’s beaten the odds. She’s ahead of the curve,” Jim Vandanacker said. “She’s a resilient little girl.”

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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