Photo courtesy Marsha Skenandore
Saqora Skenandore shares a smile recently with her dog Rocky. As of her 14th Birthday, October 25, Saqora will have been battling leukemia for 303 days. A special birthday drive-through parade will be held Sunday, October 25, for Saqora at the Turtle School. Anybody wanting to participate is asked to meet at the Norbert Hill Center at 2:30 p.m. The parade will begin at 3:00 p.m.
More than twenty-four hospital admissions. Eighty-six days hospitalized. Nine spinal taps. Two bone marrow biopsies. Forty-two rounds of chemotherapy. As of October 25, 2020, Oneida Nation citizen and eighth-grader Saqora Skenandore will have been battling leukemia for a total of 303 days. “She’s nearly done with the frontline chemotherapies,” Saqora’s mother, Marsha Skenandore, said. “Thankfully she’s been in remission and they haven’t found any leukemia cells in her blood at all, but it’s been a tough year.”
Saqora was diagnosed with the deadly disease on December 27, 2019, and she almost immediately began a very intense treatment regimen. The Oneida community has shown their love and support for Saqora on a number of occasions, and the Oneida Nation Lady Thunderhawks dedicated their February 7 varsity basketball victory over Niagara to her.
Since that time, 2020 has been a rough year for Saqora on her road to recovery. “She’s been extra sensitive to all of the medications and had bad reactions, with severe dehydration and painful throat and mouth ulcers being part of the problem,” an emotional Marsha said. “With her birthday coming up I want to thank our community, family, friends, and people that don’t even know her for reaching out to us and offering their prayers. It just means a lot and has been very overwhelming.”
A parade is being organized for Saqora and will take place on her birthday Sunday, October 25, 2020. “We thought it would be nice to thank the community and Saqora will be there to hand out bracelets to everybody,” Marsha said. “We want everybody to know how thankful I am and help lift her spirits because this past month has been mentally and emotionally hurting her. I think it’s time to help lift her spirits so she can continue to fight and do what she must do to get rid of this leukemia, because she won’t be declared fully cured for five years.”
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t made matters any better for the Skenandore family. “This year hasn’t been easy by any means,” Marsha said. “We were already social distancing and masking prior to the pandemic, and fortunately Saqora has not had to deal with COVID that on top of cancer. But it was hard because while in the hospital only one parent is allowed to be with your child, and once your there you’re locked in. I had the front row seat to watch my daughter fight this.”
The Oneida Nation, her employer, has played a key role in helping Marsha stand with Saqora through all of these difficult times. “I’m so thankful to the tribe for allowing telecommuting,” Marsha said. “I don’t know where we’d be financially without it. I’ve been allowed to work from home, from the hospital, from the E.R., or wherever I am with her. We just want them to know how grateful we are.”
There will be a special drive-by community 14th Birthday parade held for Saqora Sunday, October 25 beginning at 3:00 p.m. at the Turtle School. “Everybody will be gathering at the Norbert Hill Center (NHC) around 2:30 p.m.,” Marsha said. “Anybody wanting to participate just feel free to decorate your car, honk your horn, do whatever you can to help lift her spirits. The parade will exit NHC and enter the Turtles School lot on Seminary Road, and go through the bus lane, go back through the parking lot, and exit out on Seminary Road again. Saqora will really love seeing all the support from both sides of the cars coming and going.”