Nothing will stop this 13-year-old aspiring ballerina from dancing, not even her battle with cancer.
Peyton Richardson of Sugar Land, Texas, was diagnosed with Leukemia in January of 2015, but that hasn't stopped her from continuing to dance throughout her chemotherapy treatments. In fact, Richardson says dancing "en pointe" is harder than fighting her cancer.
Peyton has been practicing ballet for over half of her life. She fell in love with the dance after her mother, Carrie Richardson, took her to see a performance of The Nutcracker when she was just 3 years old.
Carrie told ABC News that after Peyton was diagnosed, she worked hard during her first two months of “heavy chemo” to get back into the ballet studio. She explained that ballet has helped Peyton feel “normal” during this difficult period in her life.
"It’s been a very challenging year for Peyton and our family, but ballet is helping us get through it," Carrie said. "Peyton loves performing--the costumes, the friends that she has there--and for her to continue to dance through her treatment has been huge for her.”
Peyton’s oncologist Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer of Texas Children's Hospital described Peyton as “a huge source of inspiration for other kids” who are also going through chemotherapy.
Dreyer said ballet has given Peyton the confidence to defeat her cancer.
“It’s really important for any kid with cancer to go on and do something from their life before cancer,” Dreyer said. “I wanted [Peyton] to get back out there and dance, because I knew that would give her the drive and confidence to get through her treatment, and that’s what it’s all about really.”
Peyton admitted to ABC News that one of the best parts about being able to dance during her treatment is being able to hang out with her friends from the studio and not have to worry about being treated differently because of her diagnosis.
“The best part is that I get to forget about my crazy life that has happened this past year, I can just be with my friends,” Peyton said. “They’ll ask how I’m feeling, but then they won’t go on and on. They just drop it after that."
On New Year's Day, Peyton will ride on a float inspired by her love for ballet at the 127th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. The float, sponsored by Northwestern Mutual, is Swan Lake-themed, and Peyton, who gave input to the design, described the finished product as “completely ballet to the max.”
“It’s amazing and way more beautiful than I ever imagined," Peyton said.
Peyton, Carrie and the rest of her family will ride on board the float, which aims to generate awareness for the fight against childhood cancer.
Peyton’s resilient spirit and determination have been an inspiration to her family, friends and doctors, and she is excited to share her story with the world during the Rose Parade.
“Cancer has taken a lot of things from me -- school, church, even my hair, but I’m not going to let it take ballet from me,” said Peyton. “I’m not going to let it take my joy away from dancing.”
The Rose Parade will air on multiple stations beginning at 8 a.m. PT on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016.