Nicola heading home after receiving HS treatment

Nicola heading home after receiving HS treatment

9 August 2017

NICOLA Feenan will return home to Downpatrick this weekend following harrowing treatment for multiple sclerosis funded by the local community.

Speaking from her hospital bed in Mexico, Nicola revealed she is pain-free for the first time in many years following pioneering chemotherapy and stem cell treatment to reboot her immune system in her fight against increasingly debilitating MS.

The 35 year-old mother of two said she is optimistic that her disease had been put “under serious pressure” by the gruelling month-long regime and wanted to thank the local community for “making her treatment happen”.

She is now preparing to return home where she will remain in isolation to give her immune system a chance to redevelop.

Nicola was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease 10 years ago but became increasingly disabled by symptoms in recent years.

Confined to a wheelchair and suffering excruciating spasms and frightening paralysis, she found hope in reports that hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) could halt or reverse the symptoms of MS and had even allowed some patients to walk again.

Undaunted to learn she did not qualify for the treatment on the NHS, Nicola decided to try to seek the treatment privately and launched a campaign in September to raise the £50,000 needed for the treatment.

Nicola was stunned by community support, hitting her target by early summer following a whirlwind of sponsored events including Strictly Come Dancing, 10k runs, cycles and coffee mornings.

Travelling to Mexico in July, she underwent two weeks of chemotherapy before receiving the stem cell treatment.

Although she is now rebuilding her strength, Nicola said to describe “the treatment as tough would be an understatement”.

“Chemotherapy was very hard on me and I was very ill with the side effects but I am definitely through the worse now,” she said.

“The treatment as a whole will take some time to recover from but I am already seeing improvement in my legs and I am free from pain, which Is something I haven’t been for years.”

Nicola said her medical team was encouraged by her reaction to the treatment so far.

“The care at the hospital has been brilliant, the doctors and nurses are at the top of their profession,” she said.

“The doctors were surprised at how much my MS responded to the treatment. It has definitely been put under serious pressure.

“It is strange with the pain as it is only now that I am not in any pain that I realise what I have been dealing with on a daily basis. Long may it continue.

“It is going to take some time to get stronger and I hope it regresses further.”

Desperate to be reunited with her children, Nicola said she is now “counting the days” to get home.

“When I return I will have to be very careful as my immune system is in its infancy,” she said.

“I can’t risk any infection as I will not be able to fight it and all I can be in contact with or a few months is my immediate family.

“I have been overwhelmed with support and good wishes and am so appreciative of family, friends and the local community that made this happen for me.”