March 28th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 13
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Fundraising for local man diagnosed with MS
CCHS, GoFundMe and Pure Country fundraisers hope to help Derek Sharp
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Herald staff photo
Students at Crowsnest Consolidated High School prepared and sold tacos-in-a-bag during lunch time on March 14 and raised $800 that will go towards Derek Sharp’s stem cell therapy treatments at the Stem Cell Institute in Panama City in May.
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
At 25 years old, Derek Sharp seemed to have it all going for him. He was very active outdoors, he ran his own welding business with many high-profile clients in northern Alberta, he was a father to three sons.
So when he first started feeling symptoms of vertigo and nausea, he shrugged them off as a bug.

“It transitioned into numbness in my left side and especially my left leg,” says Sharp. “It slowly got worse from there. I would wake up in the middle of the night and I would be crunched up in a little ball and I'd be sweating profusely and I didn't know why.”

When he went to see a doctor several months after the symptoms first started appearing, he was told the news he didn’t expect or want to hear.

Sharp was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) in 2006.

And that’s one of the reasons why Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is known as “the great imitator,” referring to the disease’s symptoms resembling those of other illnesses, including the common flu.

“It definitely wasn't what I wanted to hear. I thought I'd be okay, I'd just try to get healthier from that point on,” he says.

Sharp now uses a wheelchair and MS affects him in his daily life.

"The pain is the main one for me and the numbness and tingling in my feet. There are also major intestinal digestive issues that I'm trying to work on through diet,” says the 36-year-old. “I also have issues with my eyes getting blurry if it gets too hot. My hands are getting really shaky and it's hard for me to pick up and hold things. I'm at a point now where I'm at the borderline of not being able to even care for myself.”

But there is a treatment that may allow Sharp to regain some of his autonomy and bring relief to his life. With the help of his supportive group of family and friends, several fundraising campaigns have been started to help raise money for Sharp to pursue a promising stem cell therapy treatment in Panama.
continued below ...
MS is an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system that damages the myelin sheath, the protective membrane wrapping nerve cells. The Stem Cell Institute treatment transplants umbilical cord stem cells into the patient intravenously or through the lymph nodes. The cells are supposed to repair any damage to the nervous system tissue and stop the immune system from attacking the myelin sheath.

The potential this may have for Sharp is huge. It has the potential to restore his ability to walk un-aided, provide pain relief and have more energy and, ultimately, regain pieces of his life before MS.

On April 29, Sharp will be travelling to Panama City with a close friend for his May 1 treatment at the Stem Cell Institute.

"I don't feel like I have time to waste,” he says. “I feel like they've been doing it for so long and they have a good track record and I trust them."
Sharp’s longtime friend from school Deepy Sharma organized a Go Fund Me campaign to raise a total of $63,316 that will cover costs for two treatment at the Stem Cell Institute in Panama City, transportation, lodging and meals for five nights.

For Sharma, helping his childhood friend was a natural and easy decision.

“The thing with Derek is that if this was the other way around, he would totally be doing this for any one of our friends. He has always been caring, the nicest guy around and he's had a lot of hardships in life,” says Sharma.

Crowsnest Consolidated High School (CCHS) has also contributed to Sharp’s quest by hosting a taco-in-a-bag fundraiser on March 14 which raised $800.
continued below ...
Lori Prentice is an English teacher at CCHS who taught Sharp when he was in high school, and actually teaches his 17-year-old son Jordan now.
“The school donated all the money to buy the supplies and things. We had students prepare all the food, cook everything, stage it all, lay it all out and they sold taco-in-a-bag at lunch,” says Prentice. “We thank everybody for their support because I think it’s pretty cool when you can raise $800 over 20 minutes during a lunch time.”

Prentice says she remembers Sharp being fun-loving but respectful and hardworking, qualities that are reflected in his sons.

“We always thought Derek was a part of the community and his sons certainly are. We all agreed that this was a good thing to do,” she says.

Just days before his big trip to Panama City, Sharma and a group of others close to Sharp have planned a big fundraising night of dinner and music at Pure Country Bar & Grill on April 21.

There will be live and silent auction items available to bid on, live music by Tynan Groves and Mike Maguire and a dinner by Pure Country.

Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at Pure Country in Frank, Sun Life Financial in Blairmore or the Health Hub in Coleman.

To donate to the Go Fund Me online campaign and learn more about Sharp’s journey, visit www.gofundme.com/derek039s-stem-cell-therapy-journey.

“It's unbelievable. I'm just so grateful. I feel a huge sense of gratitude for Deepy and everybody that's already donated,” says Sharp. “It means everything to me. The support I've gotten from friends, family and the community is incredible and it's really unexpected.”
continued below ...
A long journey

Since being diagnosed with MS 12 years ago, Sharp has tried various treatments and therapies that had limited or no effective results.

Immediately after diagnosis, Sharp made changes to his diet and exercise regime that have shown improvements in MS patients but, a year later, the symptoms had gotten too severe to control on his own.

The first medication he was prescribed was Copaxone, a disease modifying medication supposed to slow down the progress of the MS, which he only took for a short time as it had adversary effects on him. He was then prescribed steroids, which seemed to help but is a medication intended for short-term use. In 2010, he travelled to India receive the MS Liberation Treatment, a $17,000 treatment that did not show lasting effects. He then did chemotherapy for a year and a half, receiving a low dosage every two months.

It was around this time that he first heard about a stem cell treatment that was occurring out of Ottawa, but was unable to get physically strong enough to be accepted as a patient.

In December 2011, things really started to affect Sharp to the point that he had to stop working and make significant changes to his daily life.
continued below ...
“It affects my eyes, my hands, my digestion. It affects every aspect of my life. After the chemotherapy, I think I was just kind of lost. I kind of gave up hope for a while,” says Sharp, who has been using a wheelchair to get around for about two years now. “I just decided I was going to focus on my family and my diet.”

Now 36 years old, Sharp puts a strong emphasis on regular exercise and following a mostly raw vegan diet. The only drug he is taking is Codeine as a painkiller.

But even with so much attention on leading a healthy lifestyle, the MS symptoms persist and interfere with Sharp’s ability to lead an independent life.

“I'm trying to make everything stronger. I do lots of yoga, but with the fatigue, I can't do enough to make a difference and with the diet, I feel like my body isn't absorbing all the nutrition that it needs,” he says. “That's where I’m hoping the stem cell treatment can come in and give me a bit of a boost before I can start regenerating some of my cells, tissues, muscles and nerves.”

With Sharp’s appointment for stem cell therapy a short month away, the father of three says the treatment offers new hope in treating his condition.

“It's been a long road to learn everything I've had to learn,” he says, “but I think I'm on my way.”
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March 28th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 13
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