A teenager in northern Manitoba is hoping her personal struggle with cancer will inspire others to register to become bone marrow donors.
Chantelle Chornoby, 19, was diagnosed with leukemia in August. A bone marrow transplant could help, but the teen from the War Lake First Nation, near Ilford, Man., north of Thompson, has not been able to find a matching donor.
As a result, Chornoby said she decided to launch "Chantelle's Promise," a campaign to encourage people to register as being willing to donate bone marrow, the soft tissue found in the centre of bones.
"There's not too many First Nations people on the donors registry, they told me, and if we get more First Nations people on there, then maybe it could help our people," she said.
"My experience can help somebody else, and that's what this campaign is all about — like, to maybe help the next person who gets leukemia, because there is such a little chance that they could find a match. Like, a full sibling, there's only a one-out-of-four chance that they would be a match."
The Burntwood Regional Health Authority, which covers northern Manitoba, is supporting Chornoby's campaign.
Chornoby has had chemotherapy in her fight with leukemia, and is now in Winnipeg for further treatment. The teen has already beaten cancer once: she had Ewing's sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, when she was 10.
Canada's bone marrow donor registry matches volunteers who are willing to donate their bone marrow to people who need it to treat life-threatening illnesses. About one per cent of the people on the registry are of aboriginal descent, officials said last year.
Bone marrow manufactures blood cells, including red blood cells to carry oxygen, white ones for fighting infection, and platelets that help stop bleeding. It can be affected by illnesses such as leukemia, anemia and immune or metabolic disorders.
Potential donors must be between 17 and 50 years old and meet certain health criteria.
Joining the registry does not mean a person would be called on to donate right away — or ever, Canadian Blood Services notes. Volunteer donors are entered into a database that is searched when a patient requires marrow.
Bone marrow matches are determined according to the compatibility of inherited genetic markers. The markers are not related to blood type.
If a donor is called on, marrow is removed from the large bones of the pelvis. Canadian Blood Services reimburses expenses incurred as a result of donating, such as travel costs.