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Pierre Hébert Par Pierre Hébert

Mercredi, 12 novembre 2014

Who will save Marc-André Skelling?

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It is five minutes - or less! - to midnight. Marc-André Skelling of East Angus and his family members are in a veritable race against the clock. They're searching for a bone marrow donor who will help save the life of this young man aged 23. He has Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer that affects the lymph nodes. And they need a donor of English origin, from Great Britain.

For the nth time, Marc-André kindly granted another interview to the media, this time the Journal régional Le Haut-Saint-François. Asked if he was tired of giving interviews, the young man said "I'm starting to get tired, but if it can help me, and others, it's worth it. The journalists are very kind, but I find it hard when certain media try to make you cry. I understand why they do it, to get the message across better. But where I'm concerned, they won't make me cry." He said he was amazed and agreeably surprised at the extensive media coverage his cause received. "I'm surprised to see how everybody is getting behind it, but it still has not resulted in a solution. I'm keeping my fingers crossed."

Marc-André doesn't like to talk about his illness. Asked where he finds the energy for the daily battle, he said "I don't know. Maybe I just give myself a kick in the butt every morning. When I get up, I tell myself what a day this will be." Despite everything, Marc-André considers himself lucky. "I have a roof over my head, a family, a girlfriend, and my ‘drink' every three weeks." He was referring, with a little smile, to his chemotherapy. "Some people are sick and don't have any of that." Even though he considers himself privileged, the young man also gives the impression that he feels smothered by all the attention. "Whether it's for interviews or something else, I am the centre of attraction. That's what annoys me the most. For sure, it's stifling. Sometimes, if I want to do something, I have to consult the boss, my parents, to see if I can. I know that it's for the best, but it's tiring. My friends, my close friends, don't talk to me about my illness. They act as if I weren't sick. They treat me normally, they don't pity me."

Escape Route
Marc-André has found a way to relax. Besides visiting his friends at the Centre d'esthétique auto and his girlfriend, Bianca Nadeau, he spends a lot of time on his car. "I drive around and I polish it. I am always in my car. I listen to my music and that does me good. It frees me; it's a kind of therapy. I bought my car last April. It had 50,000 kms on it, and now it's up to 115,000 kms. I'd like to change it and get a jeep," he said with a big smile. Despite all, Marc-André feels confident. "I want things to unblock, and if that happens, I would like to write a book. If my experience, the story of a youth, can help others, it will be my way of giving forward."

If Marc-André seems to give the impression he is relatively detached from his illness, it's because he doesn't like to talk about it and, above all, he doesn't want to be pitied. But his mother, Muguette Skelling, talks about it openly. "It's not going well for Marc-André. Not well at all." A recent meeting with the doctor gave no reassurance concerning her son's chances unless they very quickly find a donor. Mrs. Skelling mentioned that a small lymph node seems to have been activated in the abdomen, and that does not bode well at all. "The doctor told us that chemo has its limits. It's been three years since Marc-André has been battling this. His body is tired. We have to find a donor." But his parents, his friends and others close to him are not throwing in the towel. They're all working even harder to appeal to people and inform them about donating bone marrow. The parents of Marc-André (André and Muguette), at the invitation of the Galaxy Cinema in Sherbrooke, were at the entrance to the cinema recently, distributing flyers asking people to sign up on Hema-Quebec's list of donors. "We offered 400 or 500 persons the chance to fill out the form to request the kit," Mrs. Skelling added that she and her husband will repeat the experience on November 21 and 22. "People confuse spinal marrow and bone marrow. Bone marrow is taken from the back of the hip. The person can go back to work the next day. There's no danger. It's not the spinal column, like some people think," she clarified.

To be compatible with Marc-André, the donor has to be of English origin, from Great Britain. Even if this seems limiting, Mrs. Skelling invites everyone to order a smear kit. It could be that someone around them is compatible without knowing the origin of his ancesters. We don't always know the origin of our grand-parents, or our great-grand-parents," she said. It is also possible for persons aged 18 to 35 to register online at the Hema-Quebec website (under stem cells), or by dialing 1-800-565-6635 ext 279. More information is available on Marc-André's Facebook, at " La bataille de Marc-André Skelling. "

It is obvious that Marc-André's combat requires substantial financial expenditures. "We are going all out. We will invest everything to save Marc-André. If we have to sell the house, we'll do it," said Mrs. Skelling firmly. People have already heard his call, and several fundraising activities are happening in different places. The Institut de beauté L'intemporel at 203 Bilodeau Street in East Angus is offering assistance to Marc-André this Friday, November 14. From 1 to 7 p.m., the salon will donate the entire cost of haircuts for both men and women, as well as hairstyling for young men. And Hema-Quebec will be at Bishop's University on November 17 for a blood drive. Interested people can also obtain kits there for a smear test. In the near future, the Phoenix hockey club and the Sherbrooke police are organizing, with Hema-Quebec, a blood drive at the Delta Hotel. It is possible, although not yet confirmed, that they will offer a test kit too, said Mrs. Skelling.

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