Valdosta Daily Times

September 1, 2013

Fighting childhood cancer

Valdosta child wrestles with leukemia

Desiree Murphy
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Laying in her mother’s lap, clutching a doll, Savannah Dallas appears to be the typical 8-year-old girl. With her long brown hair and toothy smile, it’s hard to believe that she fought a horrific battle with childhood cancer.

At the innocent age of 4, Savannah began having unusual symptoms. Doctors initially thought it was the stress of her recent admission into pre-school, then later believed it was simply the flu.

Treatment for the flu was administered, yet the symptoms persisted. She had a low-grade fever that never seemed to go away and chronic leg pain that made it impossible for the little girl to do even the most simple of tasks.

Upon googling the symptoms, Scott and Brenda Dallas were faced with the horror of realizing that their young daughter may have leukemia. Sure enough, after a Complete Blood Count test was performed, their worst fears were confirmed: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

This news threw the Dallas family into a whirlwind of traveling, surgeries, and treatments that would change their lives forever. A central port was placed in her chest, which Savannah lovingly referred to as her “buddy,” and chemo was administered.

The first 30 days were spent in the hospital. Afterwards, they would drive to Jacksonville, Fla., on a regular basis.

“We put 60,000 miles on our car during this time,” says Scott. “We kept a bag packed in the car at all times just in case.”

She was given chemo for two years and four months, until finally receiving her last treatment on Jan. 4, 2012.

During this battle, the community contributed, trying to help this child through her struggle. A Flag Football for Hope game was played in 2010 and a Honor Our Neighbor 5K was done for the Dallas family. Savannah fondly remembers riding horses, her favorite animal, with the help of Kim McGhee of KB Horse Camp in Hahira. Hairstylist Dirk Hall even stuck with the family and did their hair free of charge for two years.

Although to some it would seem Savannah is a completely healthy little girl now, her family stresses that childhood cancer is a never-ending battle. Every little sniffle and bruise that would seem like nothing to a typical parent could mean something much more dire for a child like Savannah.

Amy McClanahan, a kindergarten teacher at Crossroads Baptist School, tutored Savannah for two years and allowed her the opportunity to experience a classroom atmosphere. However, Savannah is now home schooled due to PTSD, OCD, and anxiety, which are all side effects of her traumatic ordeal. She sees a counselor weekly to help combat these issues.  

Her mother, Brenda, is now her full-time caregiver and teacher.

“We hope that one day the gold ribbon will be just as recognizable as the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon,” says Brenda as she talks about how much she hopes the world will begin to take more notice of childhood cancer.

“All I want is a cure for cancer,” says the bright-eyed Savannah.