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Community rallies around girl, 4, battling leukemia
Zoiey Gaines doesn’t let anything stop her. Diagnosed with leukemia this summer, the 4-year-old might have lost her hair to chemotherapy, but she hasn’t lost her spark.
She loves to talk. She loves to show off her special toys. She loves to play with her two older brothers.
The only time her illness is noticeable is a day or two after a chemo session.
“She’s sluggish the day after or a couple of days after,” noted her daddy Eric, who is currently furloughed from his job with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He is also an Arizona National Guardsman. Mom Stephannie works for a mortgage company.
Zoiey was diagnosed with leukemia on July 24. It’s a date her parents will never forget.
“It started off with strep throat,” Eric said. “She was complaining of a sore throat. She got strep throat back to back.”
Then Zoiey started complaining about other aches, such as pain in her knee. Once full of energy, she had become lethargic.
When her lymph nodes swelled up, her doctor sent her for blood work. A couple of hours later, the pediatrician called Stephannie and told her to immediately take Zoiey to the emergency room.
On arrival, doctors reran all tests, with the same results. By midnight, Zoiey had been rushed to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
The official – and dreaded – diagnosis came the next day.
“It was pretty devastating,” Eric recalled.
Zoiey is currently in the second phase of her treatment, with includes about 100 more sessions of chemotherapy. The dosage is doubled at each session.
“Her hair is still growing in patches,” Eric observed.
Other than that, or her sluggish days, Zoiey continues to be her vibrant self.
“She’s a pretty happy kid, very resilient. She doesn’t cry a lot,” her daddy said.
“She understands what’s going on,” he added.
Hospital staff gave her a bear set up with a port, similar to hers, where he gets his “chemotherapy.” That is how she learned about her treatment.
The family is hopeful that it will work. After all, she is their “miracle baby.” Her parents thought the family was complete with the births of their two sons, Tanner, now 11, and Travis, 9. They never expected the special gift that is Zoiey.
Now they can’t imagine life without her. And many family friends feel the same way. They are rallying around the Gaines and showing their support by organizing fundraisers.
Although the family has insurance, the uncovered medical expenses, such as co-pays that range from $50 to $200 per visit, and other related bills are piling up. (See accompanying box for details on the fundraisers.)
With a lot of running up to Phoenix for treatment and doctor’s visits, they’ve racked up 6,000 miles on Eric’s truck since July, which means more maintenance costs.
In addition, Eric has requested family leave to take care of Zoiey. For the first two weeks, Stephannie stayed with her in Phoenix before returning to work.
For more information on Zoiey’s fight against leukemia and fundraisers, visit www.facebook.com/ZoieyGainesFightsLeukemia or www.caringbridge.org/visit/zoieygaines.