Casey and Ben Daggett didn’t realize this photo with their five-year-old daughter, Zoey, would be their last.
The heartbreaking photo, showing Zoey laying across her parents lap, with their dog there with them, was taken just hours before Zoey died after a battle with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an aggressive form of cancer.
The Fairport, N.Y. residents have been sharing their daughter’s experience online to celebrate her life and raise awareness of the disease.
The Zoey’s Light Facebook page has more than 11,000 followers and features photos and videos of the young girl’s life at school, daycare and with family. Wanting to capture all aspects of her daughter’s journey, Daggett was adamant to share both the good and the bad.
“We were both talking to her and crying,” Daggett told People. “I was saying, ‘it’s OK. It’s OK to let go. You’re gonna be OK. You’re gonna see people that you love. Just let go.’ I was trying to talk her into letting go because I knew her body had already gone through so much. It was so sad.”
In 2016, the Daggett family was shocked when doctors found a brain tumour at Zoey’s routine check up appointment, and diagnosed the then-three-year-old with DIPG. Despite treatment, her health began to decline in March of this year, and by the end of June the Daggett family knew Zoey wouldn’t live to the end of the summer. Within the span of a week, her mom couldn’t believe how quickly their energetic daughter’s health declined.
“Her tumour started to grow again so we tried another round of radiation. She just never recovered and she just kept getting worse and worse,” she said. “Last Monday, she woke up and she couldn’t drink from a straw anymore and she couldn’t talk, and each day after that it kept getting a little worse. She couldn’t walk anymore, she couldn’t move anymore and she started to sleep all the time. Within a week, it just went downhill very fast.”
On the morning the photo of the family cuddled on the couch was taken, Daggett said she called nurses after noticing her daughter’s skin was changing tone. It was a nurse that took the photo of the family of three.
“We were noticing that her fingers were turning bluer and she was getting more pale,” she said. “We had the nurses come and visit in the morning and we were just sitting with her. They knew that she was getting closer [to death]. So we sat with her and held on to her. We all just sat with her and waited.”
Since Zoey’s passing, Daggett says herself and her husband have been on “auto pilot.” The grieving parents have been inundated with messages — with some even sharing their personal experiences with DIPG.
“My granddaughter has this. It is so very heart wrenching. My heart goes out to you. God bless you all,” commented one follower.
“I also lost my seven-year-old son Justin to DIPG 11 years ago. I know all too well the pain you have felt, watching your child slowly be taken by this horrible disease. You are in my thoughts and if there is anything you need please reach out to me. No one can understand more than someone who has actually gone through the exact same thing,” added another.
With the funeral now over, the New York mom says that while her “firecracker” daughter may have passed on, her spirit will be remembered forever as the outgoing, energetic force it was.
“I loved her laugh and the way she always wanted to talk to people and say ‘hello’ to people,” she said. “She was so outgoing and would run up to people and give them big hugs. It was who she was in spirit. She was a giant ball of happiness.”