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Frank Gray

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Mother fights for her dying daughter

R. Irby

Two months ago, Roslyn Irby was supposed to head to Indianapolis for a bone marrow transplant that was her last hope of overcoming the skin cancer that has plagued her for the last 13 years.

Today, though, she lies in a nursing home in Fort Wayne, having never received the transplant, and her mother, Ola Irby, is desperately hoping someone, somewhere, somehow will agree to perform the procedure and save her daughter’s life.

We wrote about Roslyn Irby, who is 41, a couple of months ago. She is a former Bishop Luers basketball star and was the school’s homecoming queen in 1987. But in 1999 she came down with an unexplained skin condition that wasn’t diagnosed until 2006 as a form of cancer. That’s when she was given radiation treatments, which appeared to eradicate the cancer. But within months, the cancer came back and left her near death early this year.

But Roslyn improved and was scheduled to go to Indiana University Medical Center in the beginning of May, where she would get the transplant. Her mother was going to stay with her in the hospital for several weeks and then rent an apartment for several more weeks so her daughter would remain close to the hospital.

A neighbor who Ola Irby once helped out in a medical crisis held a small fundraiser to help Ola Irby, who is 69, pay for rent and other expenses during the three months she would spend in Indianapolis.

The money from that fundraiser remains untouched, unspent.

Before Roslyn Irby had left for Indianapolis, she got pneumonia and the procedure was postponed.

It wasn’t until about two weeks ago that Roslyn was finally flown to Indianapolis, but doctors said by then she was too weak to withstand the treatment. She no longer qualified for the transplant.

“Every time she ends up with an infection or a fungus and they put the transplant off,” Ola Irby said.

“When she was feeling good, why didn’t they do it then?” Ola Irby asks. “There were times when she was up and moving and feeling good. Now she can’t even get up by herself.”

Now, Ola Irby says, doctors have given her daughter two months to live.

They’ve recommended hospice care.

“We all know what hospice is about,” Ola Irby said.

But hospice isn’t what Ola or Roslyn want.

Ola said her daughter says she’s not ready to die.

“Her will to live is great, and as long as she’s willing to fight, I’ll fight too,” Ola said.

What Ola Irby is fighting for is someone who is willing to perform the bone marrow transplant.

“They’re giving up on my child,” Ola Irby said. “They’re giving up on someone they know nothing about. But I can’t give up because she’s not willing to give up.”

Ola Irby mentions other hospitals in other states and drops the names of doctors. She says the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, where Roslyn was treated the first time, has agreed to see her as an outpatient, but she can’t handle the ride there.

“I’m struggling to find someone who will do something,” Ola Irby said. “They’ve had 13 years of my child’s life to do something.

“But who are you going to turn to? Everyone wants to pass her on. Who are you going to turn to besides the man upstairs?”

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.