What do Michael Franti, Johnny Nash and the 80’s band Tears For Fears have in common? They were a few of the musicians on a long list whose music, voices and lyrics helped in Peyton’s healing during childhood cancer treatment.
If I was told I could say just one thing about Peyton’s childhood, it would be that he loved to sing and was constantly singing. Peyton developed a reputation for spontaneous eruptions of song no matter where he was or what the situation. He had to restrain himself a lot, because a tune would just get into his head and take over. At many parent-teacher conferences we sat across from a kind teacher who struggled with how to say “It’s okay that Peyton sings, but just not during a test or story time or…”. Whether in a clinic room, a hospital, or driving to and from Denver through the mountain passes, Peyton had his music playlists and he was constantly singing. I would join in at times, but mostly I loved hearing Peyton’s voice. He is blessed to have perfect pitch.
HEY, HEY, HEY
When Peyton heard Michael Franti & Spearhead were in the lineup at Jazz Aspen Snowmass musical festival in 2012, he was beside himself. For a long time, Michael Franti’s “Hey, Hey, Hey” had been Peyton's favorite. We made it to the music festival, and even though Peyton was too sick from chemo to stay and meet Michael Franti, he loved being able to see the live performance of Michael Franti singing "Hey, Hey, Hey".
Peyton's favorite part of the song was the line about “holding on”, when Franti sings:
I say hey, hey, hey no matter how life is today
There's just one thing that I got to say
I won't let another moment slip away
I hold on, I'm trying to hold on....
We claimed that phrase, "Hold On," as a motto for Peyton's time in cancer treatment.
In our local hospital's cancer center, the Calaway-Young Cancer Center at Valley View Hospital, hangs this photo commemorating that motto:
--photo by Sue Drinker
IT’S GONNA BE A BRIGHT SUNSHINY DAY
Peyton and I would ritually sing along with Johnny Nash in his song “I Can See Clearly Now”. I say ritually because this song was reserved just for hospital stays on the last day, when we knew we were going home. I would open the blinds of his room in the hospital and we’d enthusiastically sing together “It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day," even if the weather was pouring rain or snowing. This song will always remind me of childhood cancer and the joy of coming home.
Here is the rainbow I've been praying for
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY
"Hey, Hey, Hey" and "I Can See Clearly Now" are quite a contrast to another song Peyton loved to sing during his cancer treatment, “Mad World” written by the 80’s band Tears for Fears. Peyton especially loved the way Adam Lambert sang this song on American Idol. It took me a while to get used to Peyton singing this song, because the lyrics are hard to hear when sung by a kid in cancer treatment. I’m not sure Peyton grasped fully then the deeper message in the song of questioning one’s existence. I think he just loved how soulful it sounded. Once he told me he liked this song because of the phrase “...children waiting for the day they feel good".
Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy birthday, happy birthday
Made to feel the way that every child should
Peyton accompanied himself on the piano as he sang “Mad World” for his 5th grade continuation.
Peyton's singing let the light in during the heaviness of childhood cancer. It helped us hold on, heal, remain uplifted, and helped others understand a positive way to deal with hardships. Because of his singing he has few negative memories of his childhood cancer treatment.
Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday Peyton! May you have many more birthdays and with the continuance of your life keep singing to children in childhood cancer to Hold On.
BONUS: PEYTON SINGING FOR LEUKEMIA AWARENESS
At age 13 and one week before Peyton’s day of diagnosis, October 19, Peyton sang the National Anthem at a leukemia fundraising event at a volleyball game at our local high school.
Jess is Peyton’s mom and co-founder of Peyton’s Potion. She is a Life Story journal writer and storyteller. Jess has been keeping journals since she first learned to write. Her journal entries throughout Peyton’s cancer treatment were also posted regularly on caringbridge.org.