‘I tripped over out shopping – then found it was caused by a terminal illness’

‘I tripped over out shopping – then found it was caused by a terminal illness’

Motor Neurone Disease: Expert on early signs and symptoms

When Cath first started experiencing cramps and twitches in her legs that led to falls, she wasn’t sure what to make of it and Googled her symptoms.

However, when the worrying signs kept persisting, she went to see a doctor.

After a myriad of tests, she received the heartbreaking diagnosis of motor neurone disease, or MND for short.

MND targets nerves found in the brain and spinal cord known as motor neurons, which tell your muscles what to do.

Over time the condition causes weakness across the body and also significantly shortens life expectancy, eventually leading to death.

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Cath, from Richmond in North Yorkshire, is now in a wheelchair and uses non-invasive ventilation to breathe as well as an Eyegaze machine to communicate with friends and family.

Using this device, she spoke to Express.co.uk as the newspaper campaigns to see former rugby teammates and MND campaigners, Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield, knighted for their efforts.

Cath, who used to work as a chef in a tearooms, said: “In the April of 2013, I tripped and fell walking back to my car after shopping, then I fell during a Zumba class.

“My husband noticed at the gym while running on a treadmill that my right foot was slapping down hard.

“At the same time, I was getting bad cramps in my legs and I was also getting muscle twitches.

“After another couple of falls, I typed my symptoms into Google and it kept coming up with MND or ALS [Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis] which I didn’t realise were the same thing.”

In June of that year, Cath decided to seek out medical advice but her doctor thought it was a trapped nerve at first.

When physiotherapy didn’t make any difference to her symptoms, the woman got back into a medical whirlwind of tests and professionals.

Eventually, she decided to go private and seek the advice of a neurologist.

She said: “At the appointment, it took about ten minutes to diagnose MND. The ups and downs since then have been many of both.”

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Cath explained the low points occurred each time she realised she was no longer able to do something like her job and eventually moving her body and speaking.

She said: “That was very hard and I was so pleased I had recorded my voice while it was still good and that I found it easy to talk using Eyegaze.”

Following her diagnosis, Cath also started painting cards to be sold for MND funds until she couldn’t hold a paintbrush.

However, her Eyegaze has allowed her to pick this craft up again after months of practice.

Moments, when she’s able to support fundraising for MND, are what she calls her “highs”.

From coast to coast on a tandem to parachute jumps, Cath explained that raising awareness about the condition is crucial.

She recalled that many people would tell her, “I hope you get better soon”, straight after her diagnosis.

Cath added: “Rob and Kev both have made a massive difference to the awareness and the funds making this a much better-known disease.

“Now when people ask me what is wrong and I say it’s MND – the same as Rob Burrow – people understand straight away.”

Cath now continues to support these fundraising efforts by turning up, with her latest appearance being at Kevin’s Ultra 7 in 7 challenge, where she was able to bang the drum to set Kevin off.

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