Last February Lesley Clarke couldn’t walk or talk, but you wouldn’t know it looking at her today.
The Langford woman raised $10,000 through community fundraisers to afford a controversial multiple sclerosis treatment not offered in Canada, and on April 11 she made a two-day trip to Seattle and came back with a new lease of life.
Clarke, 46, underwent a “liberation procedure,” similar to an angioplasty.
While she laid awake on an operating table, a doctor made a slight incision in her abdomen and sent catheter wires through her veins searching for blockages that were released by inflating tiny balloons. The procedure took about an hour.
“I’m lying there getting it done, chatting away, and I started to feel my feet — I could feel my feet for the first time in over a year,” Clarke said.
Because she has a primary progressive MS, a rare aggressive strain with rapid onset, her health declined quickly after her diagnosis in 2009.
Within a year she had three chemotherapy treatments, two steroid treatments and tried every drug on the market with no relief.
So last fall she started fundraising. There were bottle drives, auctions, barbecues and a haircut-a-thon.
“I couldn’t believe it, people I didn’t even know were supporting me in this,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it on my own.”
By February she had enough to pay for the treatment, but had to cancel her appointment when her symptoms exasperated, putting her in hospital for two weeks with legs too sore to stand on and speech slurred beyond recognition.
“I was scared I’d come so far and wouldn’t be able to make it,” Clarke said. “I thought, what if I never walk again.”
She worked with a physiotherapist to re-learn how to get around with her walker, which she used on the day she finally went into the Seattle clinic.
“When I left, I was walking on my own,” she said. “I almost forgot my walker there.”
Clarke realizes her seemingly miraculous recovery my not last. “I know it’s not a cure for MS,” she said. “But if I get just three good months out of this, that’s three months of bliss.”
While she’s feeling better, Clarke has made it her mission to tell as many people as possible about her success, including the politicians with the power to allow the procedure in Canada.
“This should (have been) an election issue,” she said. “It’s the least invasive thing I’ve had to do (for MS), and the results are instant. It’s given me my life back.”