She Believed

Local five-year-old beats cancer
By: 
CHARLIE DENISON
Senior Reporter
Tuesday, November 5, 2019
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Daizee Dae Douglass celebrates being cancer free at Billings Clinic Thursday, Oct. 3.

Photo courtesy of Tammy Jo Douglass

Five-year-old Daizee Dae Douglass has not had the most ordinary childhood. In June of 2017, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and she’s been going from one treatment to the next ever since.

But now – after two and a half years of fighting – Daizee Day is cancer free.

Her mother, Tammy Jo, and father, Nick, were there with her when she received the news Thursday, Oct. 3 in a packed hospital room at Billings Clinic, where doctors and staff sang to Daizee Dae, congratulating her for this phenomenal achievement in silly fashion: “Pack up your bags, get out the door, you don’t need chemo anymore.”

“Daizee was pretty excited,” Tammy Jo said. “Everybody was there to support her and watch her ring the bell, signifying that she’s cancer free.”

Although the mood was light at Billings Clinic, this was no cakewalk: it was hard from the beginning.

“At first Daizee Dae was upset because she couldn’t go back to day care and couldn’t understand why she couldn’t see her friends,” Tammy Jo said. “A lot of changes were hard for Daizee at first, but over time she got used to them.”

Daizee Dae started her remission Oct. 3, 2017, but she still had to complete treatment, which normally takes two years but can take longer if there is unanticipated hospitalization or illness. Daizee Dae, however, was one of the lucky ones. She experienced no setbacks.

 “The doctor told me it’s pretty rare for children to go through their treatment without having an unplanned visit to the hospital,” said Tammy Jo. 

Nevertheless, the past two years have been a struggle for Daizee, her parents and her three sisters (Melissa Biddison, Kaylee and Londyn), but they persevered by being proactive.

“We’d always have bleach wipes and Lysol and hand sanitizer with us, and Daizee got used to always having a mask on,” Tammy Jo said. “It just became our new routine.”

The family stayed strong, despite the challenges, some of which were more daunting than others.

 “We had a lot of scares,” said Tammy Jo. “During the heaviest part of Daizee Dae’s treatment, two of her sisters spiked really high fevers. If they had the flu it meant Daizee would have to be put in the hospital. Another time our oldest, Melissa, had a rash, and we weren’t sure what it was. One doctor thought it might be chicken pox. We actually had to have a swab done on Daizee Dae. There is a time frame of when Jack would need to know for Daizee as far as hospitalization and medications go. It got down to about two hours from when the doctor needed to know and when the tests came back. Luckily it was negative, but our oldest had to live with our in-laws for a week.” 

Family support means a lot, Tammy Jo said, as does support from employers.

“When we first got the diagnosis, I didn’t know if I would have a job to come back to,” Tammy Jo said. “I was working at the Community Health Center at the time, and I am so grateful for the support they gave me. They were willing to work with me so I could go to some of her appointments.”

This remained the case when Tammy Jo transitioned to Central Montana Medical Center.

“They’ve been really good about letting me get to appointments,” she said.

The community has also responded remarkably, raising more than $15,000 through their 2017 benefit and continual donations. 

“No matter where I go people have been wonderful,” she said. “People have regularly asked us if there is anything we need, including dinner one night so I wouldn’t have to fix it. So many people have helped us, especially by contributing financially.”

This community support was again demonstrated during a pep rally held Homecoming weekend, just one day after Daizee Dae was pronounced cancer free. As current Fergus High freshman class secretary, Melissa organized it.

“All we knew is there was a surprise, then Melissa gave a speech she said in front of everybody, which was really amazing,” Tammy Jo said. “She did a wonderful job.”

The celebration has continued for the Douglass family, as Daizee Dae is overjoyed. She can be a normal girl again. Even eating McDonald’s and Subway are special events.

“I got her a salad from McDonald’s and she thought it was the most delicious thing,” Tammy Jo said. “There were a lot of little milestones along the way, too, like when she got the OK to play outside. We renovated our backyard for her. Then she was able to go to pre-school, and Head Start was wonderful about that. They’d notify us if any kids were sick. She started kindergarten at Garfield this year and they’ve been excellent, as well.”

Daizee Dae enjoyed the little milestones, too, but what excited her the most was getting her ears pierced.

“She’d been counting down the days to do that for over a year,” Tammy Jo said. 

Getting her ears pierced was a big step for Daizee Dae, and it’s helped pave the way for other passions. Daizee Dae can do what the other girls do. She can be a kid again.

“There are still adjustments, but it’s wonderful to see Daizee getting out and doing things,” said Tammy Jo. “She’s getting into gymnastics now and recently rode a horse at her grandparents.”

According to www.stjude.org, about 98% of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia go into remission within weeks of starting treatment, and about 90% of them are cleared of cancer completely.

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