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Sunderland mum fundraising for life-changing MS treatment in Mexico to halt disease

A Sunderland mum is fighting for life-changing MS treatment to halt the devastating disease with a series of fundraising events.

Monday, 25th April 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Monday, 25th April 2022, 1:01 pm

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Tracey Harland, 36, from Houghton, was diagnosed with chronic disease Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in January 2019, which came as a huge blow for the mum-of-one.

She’d began experiencing symptoms, such as numbness and tingling in her face and arm, shortly after the birth of her daughter Esme, now four.

The accounts worker feared it may be MS, but was told otherwise by doctors. Others symptoms, such as back pain as well as cognitive issues would come and go, and eventually doctors confirmed what Tracey feared: that her on and off symptoms were in fact relapses of MS.

(Left to right) Greg Butler, Esme, Tracey and Reece Harland Picture by FRANK REID

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Many people with relapsing MS go on to develop secondary progressive MS, which affects mobility amongst other neurological problems.

Tracey said: “It’s difficult to live with because of my cognitive issues. I work in accounts and one day I can turn on my computer and not remember anything, but be fine the next day. Tiredness makes it worse, too.

"I just don’t want it to get to the next stage, that’s my fear. It’s such an unpredictable disease that I could wake up one day and not be able to walk.”

MS is incurable, but Tracey, who lives with partner Reece Harland, is currently on Mavenclad, a drug that’s a form of chemotherapy, but it can only limit relapses.

Greg Butler with Tracey Harland. Picture by FRANK REID

Tracey’s hopes lie in HSCT treatment (haematopoietic stem cell transplantation) which can actually halt the progression of relapsing MS into the secondary stage.

Although it is offered in some cases on the NHS, Tracey doesn’t currently meet the criteria in Britain, so is fundraising for the £45,000 needed to have the treatment at a leading centre in Monterrey, Mexico.

"People say HSCT is experimental, but it’s actually used already for cancers and has an 85% success rate in people with MS,” she explained. “It’s my body and if there’s something that can halt this, I need to do it. People shouldn’t have to fundraise or remortgage their house to have it elsewhere, it should be an option for them here.”

Tracey’s treatment, a stem cell treatment which will essentially reboot her immune system, is already booked for October and she has so far raised £25,000 to fund the trip.

(Left to right) Tracey, Esme and Reece Harland Picture by FRANK REID

Her employers, Connor Solutions in Houghton, have been a huge help and have match funded monies raised by her colleagues.

"They’ve been so supportive, I can’t put into words how much they’ve helped me,” said Tracey. “I’m excited, but nervous about the treatment. It’s like chemotherapy so I’ll lose my hair, but we’ve talked it through with Esme. She has a Barbie with no hair, so she won’t get a shock when I come home.”

Now, to raise the remaining amount, Tracey is organising a series of events, including a Battle of the Bands and fundraising night at The Saltgrass in Deptford, which will take place on Saturday, April 30.

The event will feature a Battle of the Bands taking place from noon until 5pm, organised by house band Hi-Met, followed by a fundraising evening from 7pm with a raffle, food and live music from The Bare Bones.

Greg Butler (39) Picture by FRANK REID

Greg Butler, manager at The Saltgrass, said: “Tracey approached us about a fundraising evening and we were more than happy to help. It’s a fantastic cause and they’re a lovely family.

"To make it more of an all-day festival, our house band decided to organise a Battle of the Bands using bands from our popular buskers’ night. The Battle of the Bands is free to attend but there’ll be collection buckets on the day.”

You can donate to Tracey’s Go Fund Me page at www.gofundme.com/f/traceys-fight-against-mulitiple-sclerosis

Tickets for the charity evening are £10 from www.skiddle.com

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Greg Butler with Tracey Harland. Picture by FRANK REID
Tracey Harland with her daughter Esme. Picture by FRANK REID
Tracey Harland (36). Picture by FRANK REID
Tracey Harland with Greg Butler. Picture by FRANK REID
(Left to right) Greg Butler, Esme, Tracey and Reece Harland Picture by FRANK REID
The Saltgrass Sunderland, Sunderland Picture by FRANK REID