Marc-André Skelling – a story of courage and hope

Marc-André Skelling is in the fight of his life, for his life. The young man from East Angus, Quebec is battling Hodgkins disease, a type of lymphoma. Originally diagnosed in 2011, he initially kept this horrible disease at bay through aggressive chemotherapy while a bone-marrow transplant was unsuccessful.

In October 2014, the family issued a press release stating Skelling needed a compatible stem cell donor “born in the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland)” and aged between 18 and 35, since some of his ancestors were from the UK. When asked where his ancestors were from, family spokesperson Isabelle Skelling told NUACHT that they did not know.

Recently the situation has taken a turn for the worse. In a May 6th Radio Canada report it was revealed that his name has been removed from the Héma-Québec bone-marrow transplant list after new cancerous cells were discovered. In terms of Mr. Skelling’s outlook, Isabelle Skelling stated that, although he is no longer on the transplant list “he finds it very important for healthy people to register to be a donor. Life is very important and very fragile. We never know when we will need a second chance as much for ourselves as for a loved one, or our own child.”

Thanks to an American experimental treatment, Mr. Skelling holds out hope of improving his condition. While the treatment is not yet approved by Health Canada, Mr. Skelling stated in the Radio Canada report that it will halt the progression of the cancer. Mr. Skelling also said he would not need to travel to the USA for treatment, but that it would come to him. While approval is pending, he began a new round of chemotherapy on May 21st to try to remove the “small mass” in his back.

Isabelle Skelling stated Mr. Skelling “has been fighting this cancer for four years. Every day is another day and he takes advantage. He said earlier this week he is going to fight again and it is going to be OK. He has been our hero for four years.”

You can contact Héma-Québec (888) 666-4362 or visit their website for more information on joining the stem-cell donation registry.

This article appears in the May 2015 edition of NUACHT, the St. Patrick’s Society of Montreal’s community newsletter.

Changing of the Guard

2009 Walk to the Stone

Ken & his friend Don

At a meeting of the United Irish Societies of Montreal’s Elected Executive and Past Presidents on May 12th President Danny Doyle reported that longtime historian Don Pidgeon had declined to continue in the position, after which my name was put forward. I hesitated a moment. I mean, succeeding a man who has been the face of historical Griffintown since 1991, a man who speaks with absolute ease in front of audiences, a man who is universally respected within Montreal’s Irish community, a man who personally endorsed my nomination is both a humbling and a frightening prospect. After that moment of hesitation, I accepted the nomination.

Don rose through the ranks of the organization. He was Recording Secretary for two years in the mid 70’s before moving on to Vice President and then President. Despite his elevation to the ultimate position, Don is best known as the historian of the United Irish Societies.

I am both humbled and overwhelmed at my new assignment within the United Irish Societies. From 1928 to the present is a lot of history. So you can imagine the amount of history in the Irish community from the 1760s to the present. Overwhelmed is a good word.

I plan on using newer technology / social media to get my message to as wide an audience as possible. This is all so new to me that I continue to reflect on the value I can add to the United Irish Societies as its Historian.

All I hope in the coming weeks is that my words and actions make my predecessor, my mentor, my colleague, and my fellow members proud. I am a work in progress but I am confident that my friend Don will approve.