Jessica Blunden is counting the days until she undergoes more chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant that could send her multiple sclerosis into remission.
The Sylvan Lake woman is the first Albertan and the 22nd Canadian to receive intensive immunoablative therapy and immunological reconstitution at the Ottawa Hospital. The treatment may even reverse some of her disabilities.
About a month ago, she received her first round of chemo to see if her liver could hand the experimental treatment.
“I wasn’t sick or nothing, but I lost all my hair though. I got a good wig,” Blunden said from Ottawa.
On July 19, she returns to hospital for 10 days of intensive chemotherapy. Two weeks later, her treated bone marrow will be put back to produce new blood cells and build a new immune system.
She is hoping to see results soon after the bone marrow transplant, although she will likely remain in hospital until the end of August.
MS is a chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Blunden has a severe form that will only get progressively worse.
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.
Blunden’s mother Barb Chapman is staying with her in Ottawa to help her through treatment, which will leave her as susceptible as a premature baby.
Chapman said the stem cell harvest and chemo took a lot out of her daughter. Her legs are weaker and it’s very difficult for her to get around.
But they remain hopeful and are trying to look at the difficult treatment as a big adventure.
“So many people would like to be in Jessica’s shoes because she’s been pretty lucky to be accepted,” Chapman said.
“They’ve had 80 per cent success.”
The Ottawa treatment program is free to people who qualify, but participants must stay in Ottawa for about a year to keep a close eye on their health.
That’s because they are subject to weekly blood tests and a total of four lumbar punctures.
A trust fund at ATB Financial, account number 873-1230565, has been set up to raise donations for the lengthy Ottawa stay.