Marlika Migchielsen (31) underwent stem cell treatment in Moscow last year against Multiple Sclerosis (MS). A year later she is doing great: “The MS has stopped!”
When she was told in March 2019 that she had a very aggressive form of MS, Marlika’s world collapsed. “I thought I had a hernia, I just couldn’t believe it.” How could she still take care of her 2-year-old child? Yet she quickly turned the switch. “I said we’re going to tackle it.” How did she not know yet.
The doctors gave Marlika little hope. “My neurologist started talking about medication, but the chance that it would catch on was about 60 percent,” she says. No mention was made of possible alternative treatments. “He didn’t say a word about the possibility of stem cell transplantation, incomprehensible.”
In a stem cell transplant, stem cells from your own bone marrow and blood are used. If the treatment is successful, the immune system is ‘reset’. Inflammatory cells will then no longer attack the brain, as is the case in people with an active form of MS.
Then to Moscow
Stem cell therapy is not yet available in the Netherlands and health insurers do not reimburse it either. A friend went to investigate and found many opportunities abroad. “The waiting list was too long in Sweden, so I ended up in Moscow.”
Marlika’s family and friends started a crowdfunding: Keep Marlika Walking. The process cost 90,000 euros. And against the advice of her neurologist, she flew to Moscow in July last year for treatment.
‘Post-transplant process was more difficult’
In Moscow, Marlika waited for a very tough 6-week program, during which she also received chemotherapy. At that time she was partly in seclusion. Moreover, she was separated from husband and child, who stayed in the Netherlands.
At the end of August she returned to the Netherlands completely exhausted and vulnerable. At Schiphol she was still received festively by friends and family members, but the months after that she had to be quarantined: “I found the process after the transplant much more difficult than the transplant itself.”
Marlika kept a video diary during her stem cell transplant in Russia
Place this item on your own site
Video: Marlika kept a diary during her stem cell transplant in Moscow
At home, Marlika mainly had to rest. “That went wrong every day, because my character is the opposite of who I had to be. When I got home I sat down on the floor to play with my daughter, to find out if there was another band. Fortunately, that was there. ” But after fifteen minutes her energy was gone for the rest of the day. “Very strange, because I’m not like that at all.”
Marlika had to be hospitalized twice in the months that followed. “It was a bladder infection, which I did not realize at all. My body was not yet strong enough to solve that. Then you are immediately sick.”
The first months of the corona crisis, Marlika was mentally hard. “It was tough, I felt bad in April and May.” In the meantime things were going much better physically. Due to an intensive rehabilitation program and a diet, she lost 29 kilos.
“I was afraid of the future, but not anymore. I’m really happy with that.” In addition, studies indicate that the MS has stopped. “I can more than a year ago. I am proud that, despite the neurologist’s negative advice, I went to Moscow.”
Research in the Netherlands
The Amsterdam UMC has now started an investigation to see whether the stem cell transplant that Marlika underwent can also be given in the Netherlands. In the next 2 years, ten Dutch people with MS will undergo treatment as part of a larger international study.
Although Marlika is happy with this development, the research is not going fast enough. The corona crisis also delayed the investigation. “Then we will know the long-term effects in 10 years. But most MS patients, especially those with my type, do not have those 10 years.”
Place this item on your own site
Watch the TV report