Nicole Jenks’ powerful story was told in the simplest of ways. Her online plea was designed to bring attention to an insidious disease striking our young.
It’s an emotional story shared by more than 2 million people worldwide, all of them hoping for a cure, which may be closer than they think.
Multiple Sclerosis hits sufferers in their prime, many of them barely 30 and their lives are turned upside down.
Nicole was just 15 when she experienced her first symptoms.
“All of a sudden my eyes went funny and I could not see it was all blurry. I woke up and the whole left side of my body was numb, from my toe to my head," Nicole said.
“The thing is that I am normally well, I am normally just the same as everyone else, but when things do happen it can get tough."
The 21-year-old is now familiar with the long term effects the disease will have on her life.
“My leg which had been numb for two years already, got weak again, so I could not push my clutch in in my car, I could not drive and I was falling over," Nicole said.
“What if I am constantly sick like this and can't get out of bed, what happens? It is all a lot to deal with and it can be extremely unsettling," she added.More stories from Today Tonight
It's not yet known what triggers MS, but symptoms include extreme tiredness, blurred or double vision, difficulties with walking and coordination, memory loss and in some cases render a person completely immobile.
In world first research Dr. Steven Petratos and his team at Monash University have made a significant breakthrough, discovering a specific protein that may stop the disease in its tracks.
“In Multiple Sclerosis the immune system is attacking the brain and spinal cord in patients," Dr. Petratos said. “If we can stop the progression of the disease these patients will be able to have a functional life."
“Being able to put a hand break on the progression of the disease by blocking that protein that has been damaged or altered during the progressive phase of the disease”, he said.
It’s welcome news for the more than 21,000 Australians battling the disease.
“This is very significant and very exciting because predominantly what we intend to do is fast track any therapies in Multiple Sclerosis patients by using our new technique of gene therapy”, Dr. Petratos said.
“At this stage it is very experimental but we are willing to progress further," he added.
With clinical trials due to start in the next 5 to 10 years, Nicole hopes the breakthrough treatment comes in time to halt the progression of her MS.
“We're really encouraged by this latest research”, said Jim Carroll from Multiple Sclerosis Australia.
“We think it could open up a whole lot of opportunities for scientists to take us along this path to finding this really much needed cure”, Jim said.
MS costs the Australian economy over $1 billion each year in lost productivity and health care expenses.
“The great tragedy of this is that it impacts people right in the prime of their life. The average age of diagnosis is 30 when people are starting careers and starting families, so it has a great impact on the quality of their lives”, Jim said.
Recently Jack Osbourne, the son of music legend Ozzy Osbourne, revealed his battle with MS. His mother Sharon told how the 26-year-old was struck down with the disease, just two weeks after the birth of this daughter.
While Nicole herself is hopeful of a cure she remains positive and is looking forward to the future.
“It has made me who I am, it’s made me the strong person I am, the positive person I am, it’s made me enjoy everything so much more,"
Nicole Jenks’ powerful story was told in the simplest of ways. Her online plea was designed to bring attention to an insidious disease striking our young.Contact details
- For further information visit the MS Australia website at www.msaustralia.org.au/
- Watch Nicole's MS story
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