A teacher who has been left terrified at the prospect of losing her ability to walk after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis says she has been “blown away” by all those who have rallied round to offer support.
A crowdfunding page to raise money towards treatment for Jennifer MacKay has reached more than £30,000 of its £50,000 target less than two weeks after being launched by her sisters, Ally and Elaine.
The 43-year-old student support teacher at Balfron High in Stirling was found to have the degenerative disease in August after four years of suffering from an unknown condition.
And the fact it was misdiagnosed as a protruding disc causing leg weakness only added to the mother-of-three’s frustrations.
Speaking to STV News, Ms MacKay said: “It’s been terrifying, no one knows how quickly or slowly it will progress and it’s just a lot of uncertainty with it all.
“I am still working three days a week, it is quite a big school so I have been trying to reduce how much walking I will be doing day-to-day.
“Even things like going out with the children, we have to watch where we park to make sure we won’t have to walk too far.
“I always enjoyed walking and running and first started struggling in 2017, but now I don’t know if I will even still be able to walk in five years, or how quickly this will get worse, it’s really scary.”
The GoFundMe page was launched by Ms MacKay’s sisters in the hope it will help raise the funds needed for her to travel abroad for treatment that could halt the progression of the disease.
The money will go towards paying for haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) treatment, a chemotherapy-based medical procedure that ablates the immune system and reboots it using stem cells harvested from blood or bone marrow, in either Russia or Mexico.
Strict criteria for offering the treatment in the UK means she wouldn’t be able to get it from the NHS.
Ms MacKay said: “I came across HSCT treatment through my own research, it’s the only treatment that can possibly halt it.
“There is a charity called AIMS which has been set up to raise awareness of it in the UK and the success stories that have come from people who have had it.
“The success rates are quite high in halting the progress of MS and after reading up on it I just felt that’s what I had to do.
“I thought ‘I can either sit and do nothing or I can try my best to get this treatment and give it a go’.”
As well as the crowdfunder, which is currently sitting at £30,235, several fundraisers are being held among Ms MacKay’s friends, colleagues, pupils at her school, family and local communities, including bake sales, ‘miles to Mexico’ events, auctions and fantasy football tournaments.
Ms MacKay said the goodwill messages and show of support she has had from so many people, as well as the donations, have helped raise her spirits and left her feeling humbled.
She said: “I have been completely overwhelmed and blown away by it all, not just the donations but all the messages of goodwill and positivity is so humbling.
“There are so many fundraising activities going on, the staff and pupils have been brilliant and so supportive.
“The support I have had from everyone has been a real comfort to me through it all and if I can take everyone’s positive wishes with me, then I know I can get through it.
“If I could get one thing across it would be how grateful I am to everyone and a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone for everything they have done for me, I couldn’t thank them enough and it means so much.
“As well as my own situation I really hope this can help raise awareness of HSCT as most people don’t even know that this treatment exists and can potentially be really life changing.”
Posting on the GoFundMe page, Ms MacKay’s sister Ally Orr said: “Over the past few years, the people who care about Jenny have watched as the loving, caring and strongest woman we know has had her body turn against her.
“Jenny used to run, spin, do HIIT classes and work out in the gym regularly.
“A few years ago, she started having issues running, with her left leg becoming weak for no reason. Then she couldn’t run at all, and soon she couldn’t walk for very long distances.
“As things got worse and her movement became more restricted, she sought treatment from various doctors and physiotherapists who all seemed to be stumped by her condition which was misdiagnosed as a protruding disc causing left leg weakness.
“We are very keen for Jenny to get the treatment as soon as possible. With the progression of her symptoms now, she is at a level where they will accept her, but with acceleration of her condition, this won’t always be the case.”