Makayla Sault was a child, not a symbol

An 11-year-old girl died Monday. Makayla Sault, an indigenous Ontario girl, had childhood leukaemia and received 12 weeks of chemotherapy last year. She hated it (we all hate it) and asked her parents to remove her from that regime. They did, opting for traditional indigenous healing.

Makayla had a fatal stroke last weekend. The family blames the after-effects of chemo, while doctors point out untreated leukaemia can trigger a stroke.

I absolutely believe her family’s first concern was for her health, but I wonder why she became the focal point of a larger battle about indigenous rights.  Of course, history shows it is exactly this issue — children — where western-European culture has hurt indigenous people the most. Their kids were systemically abducted, culturally whitewashed and often brutalized. From the First Nation perspective, what more important issue is there?

That said, I think Makayla’s family simply chose wrong. This story should not have been about one culture over another as some tried to frame it.. It’s about accessing the best health resources available. Chemotherapy has a 75-to-90 per cent success rate in treating childhood leukaemia. Victims of other cancers would love odds like that.

I am sure that, for centuries, traditional, nature-based remedies have helped people. However,, when it comes to cancer treatment, there’s something better now; just like we have better transportation and hygiene and communication, and most societies have embraced them. Medical science is not flawless, but I believe it’s the best we’ve got.

I’ve been following a naturopath’s advice for three months. In two weeks, I will resume chemotherapy, and immediately suspend all naturopathic remedies. My oncological team tells me the probiotic supplements diminish the efficacy of the chemo. I have to choose one over another, and I side with doctors, nurses and the years of research that is the foundation of their knowledge.

I wish Makayla’s family had done the same.  My sincere condolences go out to them.


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