Samantha Skaggs and her daughters, Nikoal, 11, Taylor, 7, and Emma Rose, 3, have a lot to look forward to this Christmas season, and many more Christmases to look forward to thanks to her courageous triumph over cervical cancer.
Skaggs reached out to The Era’s Less Fortunate (ELF) Fund to help provide her children with Christmas gifts after she had to take off of work from her job at Togi’s Sub Station from June 18 until the end of August this year. It started with carpal tunnel surgery on June 19, followed by another surgery on the other hand two weeks later.
Late last year, she hadn’t been feeling well for some time with frequent unexplained fevers. After being on countless antibiotics, she decided to seek another opinion. After a biopsy, in October 2018 the doctor informed her that she tested positive for cervical cancer — and it was spreading rapidly.
She pushed back the suggested hysterectomy several months so she would have enough money to save up for bills. In August, she ended up opting for a cold knife cone biopsy instead, where they removed cancerous cervical tissue instead of doing a full hysterectomy.
“Right after the surgery, the fevers stopped. Even if it wasn’t a 100 percent guarantee, I felt a relief when I woke up from that surgery — I felt refreshed,” explained Skaggs.
“She kept saying I feel like a whole new person — I feel like the dark part of me is gone and nothing can stop me and I can move forward,” said Skagg’s best friend and biggest support, Crystal Soble.
Skagg’s first post-surgery follow-up appointment was on Aug. 8.
“Crystal came with me. He didn’t mention anything about the test results at first. We were both pretty scared, crying and thinking the worst,” said Skaggs.
“He went to start talking and I asked him “please tell me, did she beat it?” He said he was getting to that and said she was 100% cancer free,” Soble added. “It was the best feeling in the world.”
The amazing news came just in time for Skagg’s birthday, Aug. 11.
“It was the best birthday present ever,” said Skaggs.
Skaggs previously reached out to The ELF Fund after she moved to Bradford a few years ago.
“Someone had posted about the ELF Fund on Facebook. I just moved from four hours away and I was starting out fresh,” explained Skaggs. “I didn’t have much of anything, let alone a job until I was hired at Togi’s.”
She had such a positive experience, she decided to reach out to The ELF Fund again this year after finances became tight.
“Several years ago, The ELF Fund gave us little wooden toys from the prison (Federal Correctional Institution at McKean) — those are amazing — clothes, sneakers, a jacket, bookbags. Taylor even got a huge Tinker Bell doll — she still has it to this day,” said Skaggs. “They even received filled stockings.”
So what did Nikoal, Taylor and Emma desire for Christmas this year?
Nikoal asked for cheerleading clothing, a pair of Crocs and gift cards. She wanted a McDonald’s gift card in particular so she could take her best friend Kassie, Soble’s 13 year-old daughter, out for a treat.
Taylor requested babydolls, a karaoke machine, vanity, make-up and hair clips, while Emma wanted anything Peppa Pig.
“Emma is obsessed with Peppa Pig,” Skaggs explained.
Skaggs expressed just how grateful she is for organizations like The ELF Fund and encourages others to ask for help when they need it.
“Without the help from the ELF Fund, the kids would probably only get the bare essentials. I am grateful that there’s help like this available,” said Skaggs. “It’s not always fun to admit you need help, but when hard times come, you need to ask for help or let your family go without — and I’d rather ask for help.”
For those interested in buying gifts for recipients, ELF gift tags can be found at Bradford businesses. Each tag contains the Christmas needs and/or wishes of one local child or senior citizen.
Trees filled with tags are currently located in organizations and businesses in the Bradford area. Volunteer gift-buyers will be able to drop off wrapped gifts from noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 3, 4 and 5, and from 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 7 at the former Goodwill store at 75 Forman St.
Gift distribution will be Dec. 13, when inmates from the camp at the Federal Correctional Institution at McKean will volunteer to help carry gifts to vehicles.