A Red Deer woman who went to Mexico for treatment to try and stop the progression of multiple sclerosis said the experience was worth it.
“I feel a million times better,” Heather Leblanc said on Monday.
Leblanc, 37, had previously undergone different out-of-Canada treatments twice before, but she said the latest treatment known as HSCT (Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation). Her family covered most of the US $54,500 cost of the treatment in Monterrey, Mexico.
Medical staff harvested some of her stem cells and then she had chemotherapy to break down her immune system. Then the healthy stem cells were re-introduced into her body to rebuild that immune system. She was there for a month late last year, returning home to her husband and two young children in early December. Her mother went with her to Mexico.
MS people experience a “brain fog” where they don’t think clearly, and “I would say that has lifted,” she said. Her energy has also increased substantially so that she doesn’t been a nap every day, she said,
She said her mobility is up and down but also believes that it is better than it was before the treatment. She said she can walk further without getting tired, and doesn’t use her cane every day now, and her balance has improved. Her red blood cells are still low because of chemotherapy but this will improve with time.
Leblanc said she went to Mexico because the procedure is not available in Canada. She wonders why it isn’t. “If this is working, why isn’t it available here.” She said she wanted her voice heard on the issue, “but I don’t have a loud voice so I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
She was in a group with three other people when she was receiving the HSCT treatment. The others were from California, the Netherlands and England.
Overall, Leblanc said she felt better and the other treatments she received do not compare. “It’s the best thing that I’ve done.”
She has an Facebook video diary called “My HSCT Journey.”
Leblanc will undergo an MRI this summer that will actually measure any change in her multiple sclerosis. The disease harms the central nervous system. Speech, balance and vision can all be affected. Fatigue and paralysis are also part of the illness.
She was diagnosed 10 years ago with the incurable disease that strikes many in their 20s, 30s and 40s. The cause is unknown.
Multiple sclerosis is also known as “Canada’s disease” because this country has the highest rate in the world — 240 cases for every 100,000 people. Alberta has an even higher rate at 340 cases per 100,000.