Living on a Prayer

Living on a Prayer
Photo by: District/Domenic Fazioli

Amanda Sokoloff is calling on all Montrealers to think about becoming a bone marrow donor.  The Hampstead mother says it could save her 6-year-old daughter’s life.  Ellie White is suffering from a rare form of cancer (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) that requires immediate care.

The process to find out if you are a possible match for Ellie is relatively simple and pain-free.  First, you have to be aged between 18 and 35. Then, you head to the Héma-Québec website and make a request for a free saliva DNA kit.  Sent by mail, it includes mouth swabs.  Collecting the saliva takes about 10 seconds.  The samples are returned by mail and then analyzed.

« We’re crossing our fingers and waiting, » says Sokoloff. « Right now, Ellie is in the middle of aggressive chemotherapy. The chemo needs to work in order to have this eventual bone marrow transplant. »

Bone marrow is a soft, spongy material found in your large bones.  The stem cell transplant is Ellie’s best chance of survival and a possible cure for her disease.

Long odds

The family is facing a tough challenge. « Finding a match is like finding a needle in a haystack, it’s difficult to find the perfect match. Every case is unique, » says Héma-Québec spokesperson Laurent-Paul Ménard.

Across the province, there are about 45,000 people registered in the group’s Stem Cell Registry. Only 3 per cent on the list are a potential match.  The group says it also does searches in other registries across Canada and the U.S.

Since Sokoloff’s public plea for help, Héma-Québec has received more than 2,500 requests for its saliva DNA kits.


Throughout this stressful process, Sokoloff says she’s noticed changes in her daughter’s character.

« She’s really positive. I don’t know where she gets her strength from. She is a trooper. She has grown. She has matured. She is doing her very best, » says Sokoloff.

The mother describes her daughter’s spirit as remarkable and says she draws all of her energy from her.  Sokoloff has hope there will be a happy ending.

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