Mark and Sue were introduced to Helping Families Handle Cancer through a Social Worker at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. During their daughter Meghan’s cancer treatment in Calgary, they suddenly had vehicle issues with their main vehicle. Helping Families Handle Cancer was able to help cover some costs for the vehicle repair, meal vouchers for their hospital visits, as well as recent stays at the Ronald McDonald House and a hotel when the Ronald McDonald House was full.
At first glance, the Haggas Family from Red Deer looks like your typical close-knit family. Mom Sue and Dad Mark have built a home filled with joy and love. When we chatted with them recently on a Zoom call, their living room was still filled with balloons from their daughter Meghan’s birthday, the previous weekend.
Meghan just turned six and like any other 6-year-old – loves ballet and animals, loves hanging out with her big brother Ryan, and has a special bond with the family dog – Treasure. She has been wanting a dog forever and just got a violin.
Mark and Sue moved to Alberta about 16 years ago and built their life here. They both have a background in Social Work and Sue opened up a dayhome after their son Ryan, was born about 9 years ago.
But this year has been a bit of a rollercoaster for Meghan and her family, in February 2020, Meghan was diagnosed with high risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). The day after their son Ryan’s birthday in February, Meghan got a bad cold, and they thought nothing of it until 10 days and a few nosebleeds later, the cold showed no signs of letting up. They took her to a walk-in-clinic thinking it was Tonsillitis and the doctor put her on some antibiotics but she wasn’t getting any better. They took her to the Emergency room at the Red Deer Hospital and took some tests, her bloodwork showed as abnormal and the doctors immediately told the family that it was cancer. Three hours later they were in an ambulance on the way to Calgary, so that Meghan could get a blood transfusion.
“That first week was such a whirlwind, you’re just trying to get your bearings and there is so much to figure out, while also trying to understand and accept the diagnosis”, says Sue.
The road since her diagnosis has been rough on their family, with the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ronald Macdonald House in Calgary closed, the family needs to drive from Red Deer to Calgary every Friday through Monday for Meghan’s treatment at The Alberta Children’s Hospital.
Meghan has had daily chemo and weekly cycles for the last 6-8 weeks, spending most of her time at the ACH. With the current pandemic restrictions, only one parent is allowed to be with Meghan at a time and it has definitely been a more emotional time.
Mom Sue says “We’re making it work, one day a time. Meghan does much better with her Dad when it comes to having needles put in and out. We alternate going with Meghan based on how she is feeling. She doesn’t have very much control over things these days, so we let her decide who she would like to go with her.”
Mark and Sue are incredible people and are still able to find joy in the little moments. They tell us how they have been grateful to get some extra time together at home, as a family, a silver lining because of Covid. The love and bond they share as a family is beautiful to see. They love doings lots of outdoorsy things as a family. They are well loved in their community and their community has really rallied around them during this difficult time.
Meghan is a little Firecracker! She always asks for grilled cheese sandwiches from the hospital cafeteria when she wakes up from treatment. She loves soccer and ballet and just got a violin for her birthday, she loves music. Their dog Treasure, or as the family calls her “Nurse Treasure”, always sits beside Meghan when she has to take her meds. She even has a courage bead that looks like Treasure.
Mom Sue says “We really have to take it one day at a time, as it can get really overwhelming if we think about it too long into the future. It’s hard to be strong sometimes”.
Mark tells us “The best advice we would have for families going through a situation similar to ours was to ask for help, let people help you. This has been my greatest learning so far, put your pride aside and allow the people that want to help, do so. Reach out to other families that have gone through the same things.”
Thank you for sharing your journey with us, your family is one of our reasons for doing what we do!
Written by: Ayesha Rodrigo (Board Member)
To make a donation to help other families who have a little one battling cancer please visit: https://helpingfamilies.ca/donate/