By Kristine Benham
A Belleville woman is hoping to raise enough money for a controversial treatment for multiple sclerosis.
Denise Nicholls has had the disease for 14 years and for the last three she has required assistance with walking.
“My son was recently married and I pushed to have this treatment so I could dance with him at his wedding. When I was diagnosed, that’s what I thought of, not being able to dance with my son on his wedding day,” Nicholls said about what the procedure would mean for her.
Nicholls’ goal is to travel to California for chronic cerebro-spinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) therapy. This type of treatment is the process in which arteries are stretched, opening a vein inside of the brain, allowing better blood flow.
Nicholls has held several different fundraisers since last September to raise $14,000 for the entire procedure.
On Saturday evening, Feb. 5, Nicholls hosted a “girls’ night out” at the Banquet Centre, featuring makeup, massages, hairstyling, nails, a silent auction, a live band (Dr. Strangelove), photo booth and belly dancers (The Firelights). Tickets included all of these things, as well as food and a gift bag of goodies for $30.
“I have roughly $10,000 saved and need $3,000 or $4,000 more,” Nicholls said about her fundraising goals. She raised $1,400 Saturday night at the Banquet Centre.
“It’s just so close, so close I can taste it,” Nicholls said.
This relatively new treatment is still undergoing research and is unavailable in Canada and not yet supported by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.
“The MS Society shares this optimism and recognizes that this concept has already opened up new avenues of research and may lead to potential therapies,” says the society on its website about the treatment.
Nicholls originally wanted to travel to Costa Rica for the treatment but her doctors were concerned about international medications. California uses the same types of medications that a Canadian doctor would prescribe, they told her.
The procedure itself is a day-surgery, which requires a $2,500 magnetic resonance venography test prior to the treatment, to measure the blood flow. Dr. Michael Arata is treating Nicholls at his clinic in California. Arata has been treating CCSVI patients for one year and has treated over 500 patients so far.
Nicholls said the treatment will only slow the process of MS, but she said she is happy to share her experience with the media.
“I don’t mind, it helps others and shows people what this is all about.”
She also volunteers for the MS Society of Canada, providing phone support for those looking to discuss MS concerns.
“A lot of the time, I just tell people things based on my experience from having MS. I’m not supposed to, but what are they going to do? Fire me?” Nicholls jokes.
Nicholls plans to continue fundraising, being just under halfway to her final goal. Resources are becoming the only problem for her.
“I am running out of ideas and don’t want to take the same people’s money. We have been very fortunate with the crowds we’ve gotten,” Nicholls said.