It took a little longer then expected, but a Sylvan Lake woman with MS is scheduled to start experimental treatment on April 2 in Ottawa to rebuild her immune system.
Jessica Blunden, 33, will be the first Albertan and the 22nd Canadian to receive intensive immunoablative therapy and immunological reconstitution that could put her multiple sclerosis into remission, or even reverse some of her disabilities.
“It’s the future of pretty much all MS patients. I definitely lucked out,” Blunden said from Ottawa on Monday about qualifying for the treatment.
Blunden must live in Ottawa for a year during the lengthy treatment and rehabilitation.
The owner of Prairie Dawgs Pet Supply is legally blind, relies on a wheelchair when she doesn’t have the strength to use her walker, and is sometimes bedridden from fatigue.
Last fall, she was accepted into the experimental program that was only accepting 24 people. She will receive intensive chemotherapy to kill the immune cells thought to be involved in MS, which also kills good cells in the body, including bone marrow cells.
Following the chemo, the treated bone marrow is put back into patients to produce new blood cells and build a new immune system.
Her treatment was expected to begin earlier this year, but abnormal blood tests results, due to a laboratory error, caused a delay.
Blunden will now have her bone marrow stem cell harvest on April 2 and is expected to begin intense chemotherapy in mid May if she can handle an upcoming chemo test.
“One person did pass away from this procedure so they’ve got to make sure the person is up to the task of taking chemotherapy. It’s really, really aggressive,” said her husband Rob Blunden, who plans to go to Ottawa for the April 2 procedure and return to Ottawa whenever possible.
Blunden’s mother Barb Chapman will be staying with her in Ottawa to help her through treatment, which will leave her as susceptible as a premature baby.
MS is a chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Blunden has a severe form that will only get progressively worse and she is hoping she will see some of the great results others have from the treatment.
Blunden has been warned of the potentially fatal risks, but said she’s ready for “the fight of my life.”
By taking part in the ground-breaking procedure, she hopes it will soon be available in Western Canada where the disease is more prevalent.
“(MS) is becoming an epidemic.”
But Blunden said her family does need help and a trust fund at ATB Financial, account number 873-1230565, has been set up to raise donations for the lengthy Ottawa stay.
The treatment program is free to people who qualify, but participants must stay in Ottawa to keep a close eye on their health with regular tests.