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Woman wants to become a nurse after battling leukemia as teen, overcoming odds

Peyton wants to be a nurse who understands how a patient feels, not only what is happening with them physically.

ATLANTA — When Peyton Gully was expecting to do all the things that come with starting high school, she found herself in a fight for her life.

“It did look like I probably wasn’t going to make it and that was a very scary time," she said.

Peyton was starting out at Pope High School in Marietta when she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. She was admitted to the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare Atlanta to immediately begin treatment.

Peyton found herself in her hospital room for weeks – even months at a time. In April of 2017, Peyton underwent a bone marrow transplant with marrow donated by her perfect match – her sister Anna. Three months later, the family received the bad news that Peyton had relapsed, and doctors gave her a less than 5% chance of survival.

“It did look like I probably wasn’t going to make it and that was a very scary time,” she said.

In those times Peyton started to think about what she would do if she made it through her fight with leukemia. She knew whatever it was, she wanted to make a difference.

“I have a real opportunity here to use my experiences to bring other people hope and show other people that when things like this happen it’s not the end all be all,” Peyton said.

She was inspired by all the doctors and nurses at Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta who fought so hard for her and supported her through every step of her journey.

“That is when I decided I wanted to become a nurse,” she said. 

Peyton wants to be a nurse who understands how a patient feels, not only what is happening with them physically.

Dr. Muna Qayed, director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Program at Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders says she is not at all surprised Peyton will pursue medicine to help others.

“Seeing Peyton succeed like this is extremely humbling it makes us so proud and it is why we wake up every day to do this job," Qayed said.

Dr. Sharon Castellino was Peyton’s primary oncologist. She said it is impactful to see a patient who at one point faced 5% odds, and see them cancer-free and thriving. 

“I know she will make a huge difference at the bedside if not even beyond to help other patients," she said.