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Born to beat cancer

Annual Report - Winter 2014

By Miriam Smith

Marit Peterson may be genetically predisposed to melanoma, but the disease was no match for her and her team.

“We match, mommy!”

Marit Peterson
Photographer: F. Carter Smith

That was 4-year-old melanoma survivor Marit Peterson’s response when her mother, Candy, explained her breast cancer diagnosis.

Marit’s positive outlook on life not only melted Candy’s heart, but also saw the young girl through some tough times in early childhood.

Marit, who’s now 9, was born with a small pink bump on her right ring finger. Pediatricians dismissed it as nothing, but a mother’s intuition prodded Candy to insist on a biopsy. The results were inconclusive, and a visit to MD Anderson was recommended.

Soon they met Jeffrey Lee, M.D., chair of Surgical Oncology. Lee diagnosed Marit with stage IIIB metastatic melanoma and started treatment immediately. After surgery and injections of Interferon, an antiviral protein produced by the body, for a year, Marit, then 2, was deemed a survivor.

“I love Dr. Lee. He saved my life,” Marit says. “He took all my cancer away, and he’s looking for clues to take the cancer away for everybody. I’m lucky to have him as my doctor.”

To show their appreciation and contribute to the fight, the Petersons, who live in Dallas, founded the Marit Peterson Fund for Melanoma Research in 2007. Through the fund’s annual golf tournament, they’ve raised more than $1 million to support Lee’s research.

The success only strengthens the Petersons' commitment to MD Anderson.

“All of the players on a football team can’t be exactly the same. You need the best people at every position, and that’s what MD Anderson has,” Candy says. “We had the surgeons, the dermatologists and the pediatric oncologists, all working together for the win, which was getting our little girl back.”

Marit and Candy, who call themselves best friends, continue to match. Both are cancer free: Candy for five years and Marit for seven.

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center