– Rosalie, stem cell transplant recipient of First Nations ancestry.
/ Population study among First Nations communities
In 2015, when she was 19, Rosalie was working for an outfitter in Mauricie. She had a very active lifestyle, so when hematomas started to show up on her body she wasn’t worried. But then when other, more alarming symptoms appeared, she decided it was time to see a doctor: extreme shortness of breath, fever, unexplained weight loss.
She was prescribed antibiotics to treat tonsillitis, but her condition didn’t improve. A second trip to the doctor yielded a diagnosis of a streptococcus infection, and another round of antibiotics… but the result was the same.
Worried, her father brought her to the hospital where it was discovered she had severe anemia. The young woman was immediately transferred to a specialized hospital centre for further analysis. The brutal diagnosis was delivered on June 29, 2015: Rosalie had a rare form of acute myeloid leukemia.
Desperate to survive and stay with her friends and family, Rosalie began chemotherapy the very next day. Weak and emaciated, she was hospitalized for six weeks, during which time she received several transfusions of blood products.
The type of leukemia Rosalie faced was so rare and lethal that a stem cell transplant was the only viable treatment option. Her chance of survival was higher with the transplant than without it, so Rosalie quickly made her choice. For three months she prepared for the transplant, alternating between chemotherapy and periods of rest. But bad news was waiting at the finish line.
None of her family members were matches and, since there are so few donors of aboriginal origin on the Stem Cell Donor Registry, there wasn’t much hope of finding a compatible donor.
The young girl’s support network jumped into action and launched a social media appeal. Rosalie’s appeal was picked up by major media outlets, and touched people across the province: in the weeks that followed, more than 700 First Nations and Metis people joined the Registry. In the end it was stem cells from donated umbilical cord blood that Rosalie received on November 16, 2015.
Now in remission, Rosalie doesn’t hesitate to call that the best day of her life. She is slowly getting back to her old activities and wishes to thank everyone who joins the Registry and the Public Cord Blood Bank for the hope they give to those who are sick and the lives they save.