Two years ago, Zayne Burton, who was 12 years old at the time, was receiving his final proton therapy at UF Health Cancer Center in Orlando to treat a brain tumor. He was surrounded by family and friends, and was also surprised by a few players from the Orlando Pride, including midfielder Dani Weatherholt.
Little did anyone know that Zayne and Weatherholt would become close friends long after he rang the bell marking the end of his treatment.
“It was really emotional because even though we had never met, there was just this unspoken connection. We immediately saw his strength and we were all so inspired by him,” Weatherholt told Lifetime in a recent video.
Thinking about the moment they met and their budding friendship still brings tears to Zayne’s eyes.
“The worst part about sick was not being able to be a kid and not be able to play sports, so meeting Dani was really like ‘I’m going to be like that one day.’ Even though I can’t do it now, one day, I can. She brought the kid in me, out,” he said. “I never thought we would be great friends, honestly. It just shows how special she is.”
It’s been a long road for Zayne. In 2016, doctors found a type of tumor called a medulloblasatoma, which was two inches in size and putting pressure on the nerve in his eye. So, he had immediate surgery and then the specialized radiation therapy that’s used to spare healthy surrounding tissues.
“We shape the outside of the beam and we also shape the intensity of the beam using various thicknesses of material that we place in the beam path, so the shape of the final dose conforms to the tumor,” explained his oncologist, Dr. Ramakrishna.
So, when that five-day-a-week therapy was over because it worked, it was a day to celebrate. And, Weatherholt and the Pride made it that much more special.
“Zayne had such a reaction of excitement when they walk into the room because it was like a release that came over him,” his mother, Lori Burton, said. “Here he had had this feat in front of him. I think he looked at this whole journey like he was competing, and he was competing to win.
“Cancer is very isolating,” she added. “It’s a disease that you get that people are fearful of. Sometimes you just want a safe place to be, and Zayne was safe with Dani.”
Here’s the clip from Lifetime:
— NWSL (@NWSL) May 27, 2018
Who can’t root for this wonderful duo?