Greenville Youth Battling Cancer, Family’s Struggle Mounts
GREENVILLE - Losing your job and dealing with monthly eviction notices would be nearly impossible circumstances to overcome for any household. For Matthew and Jennifer Daggs, the challenges go deeper with the pain and uncertainty of their daughter’s battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Alyssa Daggs is 3 years old. And up until early this year, had lived a fairly normal life. But since her diagnosis on February 6, Alyssa has been a frequent patient at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas while she undergoes chemotherapy treatment, and her parents struggle to keep the family of four in order.
“Since diagnosis, we’ve gone from a happy life, a happy family, going out and doing things that are fun and taking the kids on fun trips to Chuck E. Cheese’s, Celebration Station, Six Flags, things like that. Family vacations. We both had nice cars. Everything was caught up. We had a little bit of money in our savings account,” Matthew Daggs said. “We’ve gone from having a good, the American life, whatever, to below poverty.”
Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children. According to the National Cancer Institute, this occurs when the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell).
As a newborn, Alyssa was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. But the daily routine of her taking a pill each morning was something they quickly got used to, according to her father. And it’s also what saved her life.
“The leukemia that she has is such a fast acting leukemia first of all. If not caught fast enough, it can create some serious issues and death really, really quickly. Because the thyroid problem, we had to go out to Children’s Medical Center every three months to do a blood checkup to make sure the thyroid was in order and everything was good. If not, they would adjust the thyroid medicine then.”
When the doctor noticed a slight drop in Alyssa’s weight during a February 6 checkup, an additional test was conducted.
“The assumption was that everything was fine,” Daggs said.
But when told that tests on Alyssa showed abnormalities that could indicate childhood leukemia, he went numb.
Following a night of no sleep and hours upon hours of paperwork the next day, it was as if the Daggs family “had been at the hospital for weeks at this point.”
“And I realized, this is still just day 1. It hasn’t been 24 hours. How the… How am I going to make it over the next five years? Two to five years is what this treatment is going to be. Even now I have goose bumps up and down my arms just thinking about that was still just the first 24 hours into this. Even now I get that thought daily.”
Programs to offset the cost of Alyssa’s treatment were initially helpful, though Daggs says it didn’t take but a month until the financial impact began to take its toll. Not only was it treatment costs, but frequent trips from their home in Greenville to Dallas, and a decline in the family’s income.
Matthew Daggs was a car salesman. His wife, Jennifer, is a stay-at-home mom. While at work since her diagnosis, Matthew’s mind often drifted to the health of his daughter and his sales dropped. And then came a point in mid May where the amount of missed work due to Alyssa’s treatments became too much for his employers.
“We had a chemo appointment. And I talked to my employer about it first. Came in afterwards and they had a termination paper that said I’d missed too much work and I just wasn’t working out for them.”
After selling off nearly all their assets to keep the family afloat, the Daggs family is hoping that the community will answer their call for help.
On June 30, a fundraiser event is planned at Commerce City Park. Donations are being accepted in the form of cash, checks, or merchandise for a silent auction to be held on Alyssa’s behalf. Donations by credit card can be made here.
Brandy Addicks, Alyssa’s aunt, is conducting the fundraiser.
“Lulu’s Burgers is going to donate the food to raise money. There is going to be a silent auction. The bounce houses and stuff like that is going to be free for the kids. Face painting…”
Now in her fourth month since being diagnosed, Alyssa has transitioned into yet another stage of chemotherapy. With each phase and style of treatment come new emotions, hardships and physical anguish on the three-year-old.
Especially tough is her common lack of enthusiasm, a side effect of the treatment.
“It’s like a miracle when you see your child smile for the first time… I would say for a good month and a half or close to that we didn’t see my daughter smile one time. She wasn’t happy about anything. You couldn’t have bought her anything to make her happy. She just wasn’t going to be happy. So when she finally did smile again for the first time it’s a blessing. I mean it’s really nice to see and we were so excited about that,” Daggs added.
He adds that what is especially upsetting to Alyssa is the lack of energy to play with her younger sister, who turned 1 in May.
With each new treatment come new concerns for the Daggs. In our June 13 interview with Matthew, he expressed concern over this newest chemo stage which will wipe out the bad blood cells in Alyssa’s body. But also wipe out her immune system. Hear Matthew’s statement above.
It’s been a whirlwind of emotions for Alyssa and the Daggs family through these trying times. But mixed in is news of hope and support.
Brandy Addicks says she received word that on June 14 a man and his wife challenged their own friends and family to raise the money to stop the eviction that was looming over the Daggs Family.
“They alone in one day raised the $1,308 to pay off the past due rent and put a stop to the eviction. Due to policies in place by the land lord we had to transfer the funds from PayPal to a money order but at 3:00 6/20/12 an angel straight from heaven hand delivered the payment to the leasing office,” Addicks mentioned in a facebook post.
Addicks, along with the Daggs family, ask for your support on June 30 at City Park in an effort to relieve some of the family’s financial stress.
Matthew Daggs added,“One thing I can say if I can say anything to the parents who listen to this, is to enjoy your kid’s energy while you can. Because as much family driven as I was I still took for granted… I could have called into work one day or I could have taken that extra day off or not worked my days off and taken the kids to the park. Turn the TV off, turn off the cell phones and just have a family day and take the kids out and do something fun.”
Learn more about Alyssa’s battle with leukemia here. Those willing to donate can do so online or call Addicks at 903-461-9083.