Wednesday, March 12, 2014


My name is Judi Lecoq. Multiple Sclerosis is my little companion, unwanted but it will not go away. I want to tell my story, I am compelled to tell my story. And this is why, when Stan so kindly invited me to write a column for I agreed.
I used to walk normally, even run. I used to play guitar quite well. I used to wear high heels. I used to run a business.
In 1997, after a bad fall, an MRI revealed a lesion on my spinal cord. A spinal tap was recommended to name this thing called Multiple Sclerosis. Guess what? I was relieved to finally know why I was always fatigued and terribly uncoordinated. Oh, let’s not forget the really embarrassing stuff which had been going on for 20+ years. So when the Doctor said “You have Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis”, I said “YAY….what, WHAT?”

Fast forward to the end of 2009. I was walking with a cane with enormous difficulty. I could stand on my legs for about a minute and then I had to sit down. Going to the grocery store was a herculean effort, even using a store scooter. I really could not stand up to cook anymore. I probably needed a wheelchair, but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea. The purchase of a scooter was in the works, reluctantly. So, in January 2010, I got another email about Adult Stem Cell Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis. I had always ignored any references to Stem Cells for this disease, but this time I paid attention. What did I have to lose? I started to do some research. I found a clinic that had scientific peer-reviewed papers I could look at and videos that explained how Stem Cells work. I started to realize that Stem Cells had the ability to make repairs, not every time, but the odds were acceptable to me (about 65% in the case of MS). We were not talking about Embryonic Stem Cells here; we were talking about Adult Stem Cells, taken from ME and Umbilical Cord Stem Cells (considered adult because the cord is afterbirth).

I made the decision that this was something I HAD to do. I sent in my patient application, my recent labs etc. and waited for a response. Well, here is how silly I was…I never even considered the financial part of the treatment. Insurance? Pfffft. Looking back, I realize that I had utter faith that this would work out…no matter what. And it did! I was accepted as a patient and suddenly I was faced with the daunting task of raising the money. Let the fundraising begin!

We did it! Some people thought that I was too optimistic and would never raise the money, but I never doubted…not for one minute. My appointment date was set for June 14, 2010 in Panama. I was sure that I would be there, and I WAS!

I was to be in Panama for an entire month. The protocol for MS has changed and 2 weeks is the longest treatment time now. A MONTH!! I packed my suitcase carefully…would I find everything I needed in this Central American country? Well, guess what? Panama City, Panama is a metropolitan city that resembles Manhattan, lots of skyscrapers. The first time I entered a grocery store I saw a display from the Vitamin Shoppe. I was with my husband, a professional Chef from France, and he found all the French products as well as the American products. 25,000 Americans live in Panama and many many Europeans as well.
When we got off the plane, there was someone waiting with my name on a placard. I was whisked through the airport to a private lounge while my luggage was collected. Then I was taken immediately to a car where I was driven to my condo.
I rented a condo so that I would have a kitchen where I could cook. I also needed an extra bedroom because my husband would stay a week and my sister and daughter would come later in the month. I did spend 10 days alone, but I never felt alone because everyone from my Doctors and Nurses to my Physical Therapist offered assistance if I needed anything at all.

I also met other patients who I made friends with. And to top it all off, I had available to me Concierge Services Panama, run by an Irishman. If I needed to go to the store, wanted to go to the mall, see a movie, all I needed to do was call him and he would arrange a driver to take me and stay with me.