“I feel so alone. No one looks like me.” — Meghan
Meghan has missed half of kindergarten and all of grade one. She’s also missed ballet and soccer and all sorts of social opportunities.
In February 2020, Meghan was diagnosed with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia pre-B. When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic a month later, Susan and Mark Haggas decided to keep both Meghan and her brother Ryan home for online learning. It was just too risky.
After two months of online learning, it became clear that it wasn’t working. “To expect a child her age to sit and do schoolwork online like that is too much,” says Susan. “She needed hands-on learning at home.”
So, on top of caring for a child with cancer and taking turns with Mark to drive into Calgary each week for Meghan’s treatments, Susan took on homeschooling while Mark continued working full-time.
Thanks to you, we were there for Meghan and her family in this difficult time. “The Kids Cancer Care Zoom calls were vital to Meghan’s mental health,” says Susan. “You feel very isolated, especially during a pandemic. Seeing those smiling faces — the hockey players, princesses, dance parties, fun crafts and physio with Caro on Wednesdays — was the only social interaction Meghan had. Because of the pandemic, she literally saw no one.”
In September 2021, it was time for Meghan and Ryan to return to classroom learning, “But after a year and a half of homeschooling, how do we return to school?” asks Susan.
Once again, with your generous support, our child life specialist Kim Clark was there to support Meghan with a remote Cancer in the Classroom session for her classmates.
Cancer in the Classroom is a fun, interactive presentation that explains childhood cancer in simple terms. Customized for different grade levels, it offers students a safe place to explore the myths and fears of cancer, helping them to better understand the disease and its impact on their schoolmate.
Kim included Meghan in every step of the process, from choosing which photos to use in the presentation to sharing her cancer experiences and presenting her Beads of Courage. As part of the session, each child receives a set of their own beads to involve them in Meghan’s cancer journey.
Seated at the front of the class, Meghan beamed throughout the session, proudly holding her stuffed monkey. Called a Monkey in My Chair, a smiling monkey comes with each presentation. It helps Meghan stay connected with her classmates by sitting at her desk while she’s away. It wasn’t long before the monkey started working its magic in Meghan’s classroom.
“After the presentation, we kept Meghan home for a few days because routine blood work showed her ANC* had dropped significantly,” says Mark. “While she was away, her classmates shared their school stories with the monkey and told Meghan all about their adventures when she returned the next week. Meghan was thrilled.”
Thank you for supporting Meghan as she returns to school. With your generosity, Cancer in the Classroom is expanding young minds and fostering greater understanding and empathy for kids like Meghan.
*Absolute neutrophil count may be used to check for infection, inflammation, leukemia, and other conditions. A lower ANC increases the risk of getting an infection.