Red Deer's Susan Haggas pictured here with her daughter Meghan after the duo shaved their heads this year. Meghan was diagnosed with leukemia in February. Contributed photo

Red Deer community helping family after six-year-old diagnosed with leukemia

Just before the pandemic started, a six-year-old Red Deer girl was diagnosed with leukemia.

The news was a shocker for the family, because Meghan Haggas had exhibited no health issues before then.

“She was diagnosed with high-risk leukemia on Feb. 11 and she had never been sick before, never been to the hospital before. She was an active little kindergartner, and she’s into ballet and soccer, so it was quite the shock when it came on really sudden,” says her mom, Susan.

Since the diagnosis, Meghan has been in Calgary every weekend getting treatment.

“On Feb. 11, she had to get blood transfusions and we had to get chemo every weekend, so it’s been quite a whirlwind. And then soon after that, the pandemic hit,” said Susan.

“We grieved the life Meghan could’ve had before cancer, and now, we’re just so grateful we have her.”

The mother is grateful for supportive friends such as Stacey Dyck, who started an online fundraiser for the family.

“We have no biological family here, but we have community friends, and Red Deer area community is just beautiful,” said Susan.

Dyck said she started the fundraiser because the family was dealing with emotional and financial stress.

The family had to go down to one income so one parent can always be with Meghan to take care of her.

“And just the mental stress of hoping the next appointment will be a good one. And her immune numbers have to be high enough to receive chemo, and they have to keep her safe at all time, away from germs.

“COVID is an added stress for the family ,” said Dyck.

With chemo, Meghan soon lost her hair, so Susan shaved her hair too to show her daughter it was OK.

Soon after that, Dyck joined them, along with Ryan Stelmack – another family friend.

Together, the two friends did a Facebook Live presentation to show their support for the Haggases and to raise money.

“Susan shaved her head, and that’s where I got the idea from. I didn’t want my fellow woman friend to feel like she was alone in this, so I thought I’d shave my head, too,” said Dyck.

Meghan also finds support in her older brother Ryan, 9, and the family dog, Treasure.

When it’s time to take medication, nurse Treasure is always on the job, says Susan.

“She sits with her and Meghan can hold onto her.”

Treasure isn’t allowed at the hospital, so Meghan has a stuffed dog that looks just like Treasure for medical appointments.

Dyck describes Meghan as outgoing and adventurous, with a kind heart. She said the youngster enjoys hiking, canoeing, tobogganing, skating and swimming.

“And Meghan has been so brave through it all – she’s a very strong little girl as well. She takes each step with a positive attitude. She’s very good at reassuring her family she’s doing good.”

The Blackfalds resident said the money raised for the family will help them with everyday expenses and any additional costs they incur during their visits to Calgary.

As of Monday afternoon, the fundraiser had raised $2,590 with a goal of $5,000. To donate find Solidarity Shave on GoFundMe.

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Red Deer's Meghan Haggas pictured here with the family dog Treasure who supports her when it's time to take leukemia medication. Contributed photo

Stacey Dyck of Blackfalds shaved her head to be a supportive friend. The central Albertan has also started an online fundraiser to help a Red Deer family. Contributed photo

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