EXERCISE was her life, but now MS patient Kate Dawson struggles to even walk around her house.
But the mum-of-two has refused to accept the prognosis that she will eventually end up in a wheelchair.
She wants to undergo pioneering treatment in Mexico which could stop the disease in its tracks – but faces a race against time to raise £45,000 so she can undergo it next month.
The 41-year-old said: “I am determined not to keep progressing on the downhill.
“The doctor just drew a graph and said ‘that’s the way you’re going to be going’.
“I don’t want to just accept it. Having MS is like a life sentence because you don’t improve.”
Kate, from Ackworth, near Pontefract, was a keen runner and qualified fitness instructor when she first realised something was wrong at the age of 35 as she kept tripping up when running.
At hospital, she underwent scans and lesions were found on her spine – a sign of multiple sclerosis, or MS.
The condition affects the central nervous system, damaging the coating around nerve fibres and causing a range of symptoms.
Kate was stunned by the diagnosis: “I was in denial – this couldn’t be happening to me. I just did not believe it.”
The disease has now affected her mobility badly, and left her with other health issues which mean she’s had to give up her job as a teacher at Ackworth School.
“Prior to MS I had always loved the outdoors and sport was my life,” she said.
“Now my balance has gone and I hobble round my house. Each morning, you don’t know how you’re going to be or what’s going to be the problem.
“It could be anything – you might wake up and your arm won’t work. My symptoms are specific to my leg but every case is different.”
Her illness has had a massive impact on her husband Rob and their sons Sam, 15, and 13-year-old Josh too.
“That’s the most painful thing – I can’t go out and see them play sport or do things with them,” she added.
“This, along with missing out on fun days out with my family, is absolutely heartbreaking for me.
“I want my kids to grow up with an active family. Not being mobile is starting to break me and I don’t want it to.”
There is no cure for MS and the NHS hasn’t been able to offer Kate, who has the more advanced secondary progressive form of the disease, any treatment.
Through online research, she discovered the treatment HSCT, which has successfully treated MS in a majority of patients.
It involves carrying out a stem cell transplant using her own cells, which are transferred back into her body to ‘reboot’ the immune system.
HSCT is only available in the UK through clinical trials, with research carried out in Sheffield reporting “remarkable results” for some patients.
Kate discovered a clinic in Mexico which offers the treatment, though it has an 18-month waiting list.
“The problem is that I can’t wait. Even if it came to the UK in 18 months, I could be in a wheelchair by then,” she said.
“What’s the alternative? I just sit around and let myself get worse.”
Earlier this month she was told there had been a cancellation and she could start treatment on June 20, so she desperately needs to raise funds towards the £45,000 cost.
The gruelling month-long procedure, which involves chemotherapy to knock out her immune system, costs £40,000 while a further £5,000 is needed for more treatment when she returns to the UK.
An online donation page has collected £5,000, while Kate is also selling bracelets online and pupils and teachers at her school are fundraising.
“I only have a month to raise the funds but I can’t afford to wait as each week my condition is worsening and following a recent MRI scan I have several more lesions on my spine and brain,” she said.
“MS is a cruel disease as it takes your life away from you bit by bit.
“I want to be able to see my children take part in activities throughout their life and I want to take them on the holidays I’d always dreamt we would go on together.
“I want to support my wonderful husband and loving parents instead of giving them all so much worry about me.”
* Donate via https://www.gofundme.com/24cdh4c or visit www.facebook.com/helpkategetridofMS for information.
The treatment involves creating a new immune system from the patient’s own stem cells.
Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (HSCT) sees stem cells being harvested from bone marrow. Chemotherapy then destroys the patient’s current immune system and the stem cells that were previously captured are reintroduced, rebooting the immune system to the state it was in before MS developed.
In some patients it has halted the disease and others have seen an improvement.