‘No time to waste’
At the age of 8, Palmer Goforth is already a hero, having fought and won a battle against childhood cancer.
Palmer Goforth, age 8. He has an older brother named Cameron and dog named Blue. He plays soccer with a travel club. His favorite animal is a wolf. And when it comes to his future, Palmer has big plans.
“I want to make armor so I can be a superhero. Or take care of wolves. Or play professional soccer!” he said.
In December 2020, Brittany and Parley Goforth’s world was turned upside down. Their 7-year-old son, Palmer, was diagnosed with stage 3B Burkitt’s lymphoma. What they thought was appendicitis had turned into the unimaginable. Their son was immediately admitted to Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital for treatment.
“It’s extremely scary because this particular cancer is so aggressive. There is no time to waste,” Brittany said. “After the diagnosis, everything moved so fast. But every provider had confidence in the treatment plan. They knew this was the right thing for him.”
Children are known to be resilient, and Palmer was no exception. He embarked on five chemotherapy treatments at a dosage three times the amount the average adult can handle. He was sick and in pain, but he was strong.
He also has perspective far beyond his years. He felt the love and prayers from his family and community. He knew the support was a source of strength.
“I was born lucky. You know why?” he said on one of his toughest days in treatment. “I have a really, really good mom and a really, really good dad.”
Thankfully, with the love of family and friends, and the team at Hemby Children’s Hospital by their side, Palmer was able to fight and overcome childhood cancer.
The Hemby difference
Although they live an hour away in Statesville, the Goforths can’t imagine Palmer’s experience in treatment going any better than it did at Hemby Children’s Hospital. Shortly after being admitted to the hospital, it was clear Palmer was going to receive the best possible care.
“No one wants to spend time in the hospital. The providers were incredible. But it also goes far beyond great doctors. Food service, housekeeping, child life specialists, the chaplain, the radiologists — each of them were not just kind but invested in Palmer’s journey.”
One of the child life specialists at Hemby Children’s Hospital, Megan Arleth, helped the Goforths explain Palmer’s illness to him. Megan illustrated what was happening to Palmer’s cells using playdough. Evi Fulton, another child life specialist, helped his older brother, Cameron, understand what was happening to his brother without eliciting fear.
“Palmer can still explain what was happening with his cells throughout treatment,” Brittany said. “When he was not feeling well and needed a blood transfusion he would say, ‘I don’t have enough party cells!’ because Megan explained to him those cells made him feel better and brought on the party.”
The team at Hemby Children’s Hospital also went above and beyond to ensure Palmer still got a chance to be a kid, despite his illness. He played with Legos, watched movies with the nurses and fought valiantly in a water gun fight his last night in the hospital.
“Hemby has wonderful nurses. It is the best place to go if you are sick,” Palmer said. “It is the best hospital for children because of the nurses and everyone. They saved my life. That’s all.”
When patients finish treatment, they ring a bell to signify their completion and celebrate overcoming cancer with their family and care team. Palmer had grown close to the hospital chaplain, Nick Stewart, but he was on vacation when Palmer was ready to ring the bell. Nick decided to return from his trip early so he could be at the hospital for Palmer’s big moment.
“Palmer ran straight into Nick’s arms after he rang the bell,” Brittany said. “He became his best friend and remains so special to Palmer. We are overwhelmed by his selflessness to shorten his trip so he could be there for Palmer on that momentous day.”
Our hero today
It has been a year since Palmer’s diagnosis and treatment. He is feeling happy, healthy and back to his active lifestyle. Brittany and Parley are focused on building his immune system back up, especially with the added risk of COVID-19 infections. But overall, they feel extremely positive and are filled with gratitude that Palmer has returned to being a healthy kid again.
The Goforths are also dedicated to paying the kindness they received forward. Around the time of Palmer’s diagnosis, Brittany was introduced to another mom whose child had just beat a similar cancer.
“Having someone who walked the same path but had come out the other side was so comforting. This family walked us through the ups and downs they experienced throughout treatment, which helped us manage our expectations. They gave us hope. After our experience, I am a huge advocate for connecting families.”
On Palmer’s last day of treatment, the Goforths were connected to a family who had just been given a childhood cancer diagnosis.
“We were honored that we could give them the same support and love that we received,” Brittany said.
Your generous contribution, no matter the amount, can provide lifesaving care to families battling childhood cancer.
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