Kate Day was 22 years old when her neurologist diagnosed the sudden paralysis on her left side as hysteria.
And she believed him – especially when the condition passed after a month.
The heaviness in her limbs, however, continued, and she pushed harder to compensate for her unexplained tiredness, limping and falls.
“There was always that reluctance when other things came up to go and seek help, because I felt, ‘it’s me … I created it,’” said Day, now 60.
Sitting at the Esquimalt Neighbourhood House, where she volunteers as a counsellor, she recalled finally being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998.
“I was shocked … it was very rough,” she said.
Since then, her condition has worsened requiring her to wear a brace, use a cane, and get around very slowly. “I’m still driving but it looks like it’s getting very close to a scooter. For me, it’s so hard to visualize.”
Before that happens, she’s hoping a controversial treatment will prevent the need for one.
Liberation therapy isn’t approved in Canada because it is still considered experimental.
Several provinces have launched studies in response to patients seeking the treatment abroad. Some return reporting relief from their symptoms, challenging assumptions that MS is an autoimmune disease. Others have less positive results. In October, a Canadian man made headlines when he died from a riskier form of the procedure. The B.C. Ministry of Health has no data on the numbers seeking treatment elsewhere and is not aware of any returning to face complications from the surgery.
Day is planning to have the surgery in Poland in late April or early May. She’s ready for the possibility it won’t bring the benefits she’s hoping for.
“I’m not worried about that, because I don’t have any other recourse. If it works, great, and if it doesn’t I’m not going to be any worse.”
The challenge now is the cost of the trip, estimated at $16,000.
That’s where the Esquimalt Neighbourhood House fits in. Employee Brenda Macevicius is organizing a series of fundraisers for Day – the first happened last weekend – which will run through March.
Day took the 10-month training to be a counsellor about three years ago. Since then, she sees up to three people per week for hour-long, one-on-one sessions.
After Day’s own early experience with the health care system, her reason to volunteer at the centre is simple. “It’s a place where people can be heard. That’s really important to me.”