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Dr. Stacy Marjerisson paediatric oncologist at McMasters Children’s Hospital leaves the Ontario Court of Justice in Brantford behind a few First Nation supporters after the judges verdict came down against the doctors saying they could not force the parents of a 11 year old girl from Six Nations with childhood leukemia to continue chemotherapy treatments on their daughter, allowing the girl to seek alternative medicine treatments.

Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

The First Nations woman known publicly as D.H. to protect the identity of the daughter she pulled out of chemotherapy says she is planning a celebration for next Aug. 11.

That will be one year to the day that her petite 11-year-old child was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer originating in the bone marrow that doctors say will kill within 12 months without the treatment they are offering.

D.H. intends to prove them and her critics wrong.

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Instead of the drug regime the experts at McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton prescribed, she has turned to the traditional medicines of her people in an attempt to cure her girl.

The doctors are so certain the native remedies will not work that they went to court to have the child taken away from her family and put back on chemotherapy.

But a judge turned them down last week, prompting an outcry from those who say the child has been handed a death sentence.

Now D.H. wants the publication ban removed from her name and that of her daughter, who is known in the media as J.J., so the public can witness their progress.

"I want the world to follow her and see what the outcome is, no matter what it is," D.H. told The Globe and Mail on Friday at a conference on indigenous health care at which she was the final speaker – and where she received a standing ovation.

"I want people to know that I was at least allowed to try, that this court case allowed me to try," she said.

J.J., one of the youngest of a very large family, sat beside her mother during the interview, nibbling on a green salad. Fresh, healthy foods are part of the healing process, D.H. explained.

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From the moment her daughter was diagnosed, D.H. said she was determined to use traditional methods.

The doctors at McMaster did not prevent her from doing that. But, she said, they wanted to know what was in the treatments she was administering – something D.H. said she took as a subtle message that the native remedies were frowned upon.

And, although her daughter was allowed to participate in a First Nations healing ceremony at the hospital, said D.H., "right after our ceremony was done, somebody told me the nurse turned to them and said, 'She's all better now, right?'" The sarcastic comment helped persuade D.H. to end the chemotherapy, which was supposed to have continued for another two years.

D.H. said she would have fled if the doctors had been successful in their bid to take J.J. from her. "I just thought she is going to suffer without me," she said. "Doesn't any child want their mother and the people who love them around them? She would probably die of loneliness as well as the poison."

Ontario Court Justice Gethin Edward rejected the doctors' case, saying the Constitution protects the rights of First Nations parents to treat their children with traditional aboriginal medicine.

The decision to rely on the treatments of her ancestors was not made solely because she does not want to watch her daughter wrestle with the miserable side effects of chemotherapy, D.H. said. Rather, it is because she believes it will work.

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"Just because it hasn't been recorded and documented or had case studies or medical trials" does not mean it is ineffective, she said. "There's been enough people in my own lifetime who I have seen take it and who have been tested by doctors and their cancer was gone."

And, if her daughter's health starts to decline, she said she will not be embarrassed to admit defeat and return to chemo.

"I have never said I wrote it off," said D.H. "Right from the beginning, I said this is what I am going to do. If it ever comes to where she's not responding any more, I would consider chemotherapy. I always have to say I would not watch my daughter perish. Common sense prevails."

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