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Mother and Daughter’s Fight with Leukemia

Marjorie Roden

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      WINTER 2001      v31 n01 p25  
Gloria Greyeyes of the Muskeg Lake First Nation is a typical mother who will do anything for her children. When one of her children is in need, she will go through whatever lengths necessary in order to help that child.

Which is exactly what she is doing for her three-year-old daughter Jasmine. "(Jasmine) was two," explained Gloria.

"She was diagnosed with Leukemia September 21st, 1999."

The typical thing for any person in this situation to do - especially when one is a parent - is to get prepared for a worst-case scenario, which is exactly what Gloria did upon receiving the news.

"When you think Leukemia, you think transplant, of bone marrow" said Gloria.

"They wouldn't test her and stuff because, I didn't realize it at the time, there are stages (of Leukemia). There's standard risk, which she is, and then there's high risk, and then there's whatever's worse than high risk."

For all standard risk patients, there is a corresponding standard treatment, which Jasmine has been going through for roughly a year. What this treatment includes is two years and two months worth of treatments which include Jasmine having to go through Chemotherapy, as well as having to take doses of several high-powered drugs, including Vinchristine, which is injected through tubes that go straight into Jasmine's heart, and Pregnazone, a powerful steroid.

If, after this treatment, the symptoms are gone, she is on her way back to being considered "cured". Once five years have passed from the end of the treatments where Jasmine is no longer displaying symptoms of Leukemia, she is then considered "cured".

However, this is a best-case scenario that could be in Jasmine's future. If there are complications, Jasmine might require either new white blood cells or bone marrow, or even both. Yet if this is a route that must be taken, yet another challenge will undoubtedly arise.

"That was the one main thing I kept hearing, was that there's no Aboriginals, there's no representation on the (Canadian Blood Services and national bone marrow) registry for Aboriginals," said Gloria.

"There's 1600 out of 6 million. The numbers, it's one in 750 and those are the odds for finding a bone marrow match."

For any Aboriginal person, hearing these statistics sends a - chill up one's spine. This feeling is especially strong for a mother whose child has been diagnosed with Leukemia. Realizing how low these numbers are inspired Gloria to take the initiative to not only help Jasmine, but also other Aboriginal people who might possibly come to require either a blood transfusion or a bone marrow transplant.

"I didn't want to wait until they told me that she needed the bone marrow before I started looking, or getting people to register, because why can't they?" said Gloria.

"Why can't they anyway, not only for Jasmine, but for everybody, for all the little kids."

There have been times that Jasmine has required platelettes, and Gloria recalled one such time when the wait was of concern to her, and drove home the point of more donors being needed.

"We went in (to the hospital) one night, because Jasmine was bruised up so badly. It was like every time we touched her, she bruised up. We could almost watch the bruises happening.

"We checked her blood, and they said yes, she needed platelettes, and there were no platelettes for her, but she wasn't an emergency, meaning she wasn't bleeding to death at the moment.

"With these things, they kept me going and made me realize the importance of it all whether it's for my own girl or for my neighbor's kid, or somebody. It was just... I couldn't believe that that would actually happen in this day and age."

Because of this, Gloria Greyeyes has been on a one-woman crusade over the past year to raise awareness amongst First Nation people across Canada. She has been working on her own, and through generous donations received from Aboriginal governmental organizations such as the FSIN and the Muskeg Lake Band Council, posters will be distributed to all of the First Nations across Canada. These posters raise awareness about the lack of registered donors in the Canadian Blood Services registry among the Canadian Aboriginal community.

"They have really been a help, all along the way," said Gloria.

"I want to continue being an advocate for Canadian Blood Services."

First photo: Gloria Greyeyes,
Photo far right: 3 years old
Jasmine with big sister, Sabrina.
Gloria Greyeyes 3 year old Jasmine with big sister, Sabrina