A Glimmer of Hope for Maëva

Maëva Asselin was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a type of cancer rare in children, when she was only seven months old. While she was hospitalized over seven months, research led to a new discovery: Maëva was born with a cancer gene—the first such gene carrier to be identified in North America. Pregnant with her second child at the time, Noémie Lévesque Faquette is grateful to have count on Leucan’s support during this hardship.

Physicians first thought they were dealing with a viral infection but a bone marrow aspiration confirmed Maëva’s diagnosis. Noémie Lévesque Faquette felt deeply that something was wrong. What she did not know at the time was that Maëva was also a DDX41 mutation carrier—AKA the cancer gene. “She is apparently the first person in North America to be identified as a carrier. It is a part of her. If I shave my head, my hair will grow back the same colour. In much the same way, if doctors eliminate her cancer, it can come back at any time.”

The Importance of Clinical Research

This major discovery was made possible thanks to Maëva’s parents who agreed to have part of their daughter’s bone marrow sent for further analyses by Leucan’s research teams. “They conducted more extensive studies and discovered that my daughter was suffering from a very rare disease. […] At least, they could push the investigation further and consult with teams in other countries to find solutions, adapt her chemotherapy treatments, and attempt techniques to make sure her cancer never comes back. Of course, there is still a high probability of recurrence, but she is getting adequate follow-up services for that.”

Although Noémie is relieved to have this information in hand, it is still a shocking turn of event. “No child should experience this, much less a risk of going through it all again,” she said. “While we hope that Maëva will turn out to be a unique case, we are glad that resources will be available to help detect other cases and make the process easier for others.” Tests are underway to find out if Noémie and Maëva’s father are carriers—an additional stress for the mother of a new baby boy.

High Impact Treatment

While Maëva’s illness and hospitalization provoked delays in both physical and motor development, she has also had an energy boost since the beginning of her treatments. “Before she started chemotherapy, Maëva cried a lot and was generally feeling unwell. We noticed a big difference since treatments began. She’s a real firecracker now,” laughed Noémie.

Due to her very young age, Maëva was closely monitored after each treatment. “She always felt depleted after chemotherapy and would undergo blood and platelet transfusions. In fact, we want to say a huge thank you to people who donate blood. It saved my daughter’s life. We realized firsthand just how important it is to give blood and to contribute to Leucan,” added Noémie. “Without blood donors, I don’t think Maëva would have survived this ordeal.”

Leucan: A Second Family

The young mother of two is deeply grateful for all the support her family received from Leucan, including small touches like shirts made especially for chemotherapy and massages. “We had not planned for this hospital stay, so Leucan helped us financially because there were a lot of costs to cover. I had just found out I was pregnant with my second child, so my entire pregnancy was spent at hospital with my daughter,” explained Noémie. “It’s not easy to stay at the hospital for seven consecutive months.” Still, she considers herself fortunate that Leucan was there to instill fun and smiles in her days, including with the hilarious visits of clowns. “It did children a world of good! Even while undergoing chemo, my daughter would smile whenever she would see them!”

“Chemotherapy is tough on children but they are so incredibly strong! Children in the pediatric cancer wing are always in a good mood. That is amazing to me. Despite all the challenges they face, they stay resilient and happy,” she added.

Noémie now has Leucan tattooed on her heart and hopes to take part in the Association’s events and activities as soon as her daughter gets better. “Whenever we head to the hospital for lumbar punctures, we are so happy to see everyone. It’s always a touching moment. They devoted so much time to us and our children, we could never thank them enough. […] After hardships, there is always a break in the clouds. People here are perfect: they lift our spirits and support us through it all!”

Enjoying Childhood

At Sainte-Justine, Maëva was nicknamed the “smiling baby,” drawing everyone’s attention with her contagious cheerfulness. After seven months of chemotherapy, she is now done with treatments. At time of writing, her mother Noémie was waiting for a new bone marrow aspiration to determine if treatments worked. Over the phone, we could hear the 14-month-old little girl expressing her joy clearly, even from the hospital. Thanks to your generous donations, Maëva received treatments adapted to her condition and age and can now continue to live her life with a bright smile.

Leucan Donate