Light sparkles in the eyes of 6-year-old Lily Baggott as she tells about her love for Disney princesses and for her cat, Gale.
Seeing that energetic spark is a miracle for which her parents, Chris and Liz Baggott, are forever thankful to the people of Winnsboro.
In August 2011, Lily was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoma Leukemia and the community rallied around her.
She has since moved from 6 months of heavy chemotherapy treatment into the one-and-a-half year period of monthly maintenance treatment.
She is now healthy enough to have returned to Richard Winn Academy and be in Mrs. Joyce Schwartz’s first grade class.
The girl must be extra mindful about hand washing, germs and nutrition since the treatments have made her more vulnerable to catching infections, but she is glad to be back in school.
Her energy level remains up so long as her blood counts remain up.
She is fortunate to have a form of leukemia with a cure rate of around 90 percent, up from 80 percent 20 years ago.
“We are blessed to have a children’s hospital that is close by with a center that treats childhood cancer and blood disorders,” Liz Baggottt said. “There are four doctors there I can call 24 hours per day and those are the same doctors who will see her when I take her to visit on the first floor (of the Palmetto Richland facility).”.
Her grandmother, Betty Harden, said the volunteer office there helps plan the retreat at the White Oak Conference Center as well as Camp Kemo, has been invaluable to their family.
Through the volunteer office, Lily received a new toy for each time she went through treatment. Children receive points for the procedures they undergo and those points can be redeemed for tickets which are used to purchase toys.
“When you are going to be put to sleep for back sticks or have a port accessed, it helps to have a toy at the end,” Liz Baggott said.
Lily could not receive visitors while she underwent the strongest therapy for risk of infection, but people came up with a system to help by placing a box on her porch where they left toys and other goodies to encourage her. They also left crafts for her to do as her energy level allowed.
The phone calls and prayers are what sustained her mother and father, too.
“Knowing others are praying for you is what carried me through. It’s such a blessing and people I didn’t even know would stop me in the grocery store to ask about Lily,” Liz Baggott said.
Their church Sion Presbyterian, did outreach to the volunteer organization that supplied Lily with toys, donating dolls wearing hospital gowns, donating magazines and donating toys.
The family is thankful for funds set up to help with Lily’s medical expenses over the past year. Now they are at a place where they can give back and the want to give back to other cancer patients and their families.
Liz Baggott also encourages Winnsboro residents to support the Richland Children’s hospital by donating money or time as a volunteer there. Persons interested in this outreach to children may contact Child Life Specialist Susan Shumpert at the volunteer services office by calling (803) 434-6242.
The Baggotts are reaching out by sharing their story to inspire others. Children diagnosed within the past year with either a blood disorder or with a form of cancer and their families come to nearby White Oak Conference Center looking to network, share information and find inspiration. This year the Baggotts returned as a positive success to story to encourage others, yet Liz Baggott said she could not have made it through to that place had it not been for the amazing support of Fairfield County residents.
“We are not quite sure why God put us on this journey, but at least we know her cancer is curable,” Liz Baggott said. They will monitor Lily closely for five years with checkups and if the cancer does not return for five years after that period, she will be declared cancer free.
This summer she was able to live a full life in lots of ways like attending several vacation Bible schools, attending the local Daisy group with the girl scouts and taking trips to the mountains.
This year as a way to show support for other cancer patients, Team Lily, has been formed by Richard Winn students who will walk in the Light the Night Walk.
Liz, Lily and Chris Baggott attended the Light the Night Walk last year after they saw a flier at the hospital advertising it.
“The students really put their hearts into it and seem to be encouraging it and I think recognizing their efforts is important, too. Lots of people from Fairfield County have said they will be there and Lily will have a table there for a meet and greet area where she will hand out water bottles,”Liz Baggott said. “This Light the Night Walk team Lily is a wonderful way for Richard Winn Academy to support its own but others would benefit, too, from the walk.”