On April 24th Blewbury resident and Bulletin distributor Susan Fletcher set off to walk the Pennine Way in one go to increase awareness of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and raise funds to help beat it. Susan was diagnosed with MND – which is always fatal and for which there is no effective treatment – just before her 60th birthday in July last year.
The Pennine Way is Britain’s oldest, longest and, most would agree, toughest National Trail. It starts at Edale in the Peak District and ends 260 miles, or a blistering 17 million inches (!), later at Kirk Yetholm just inside the Scottish border. Susan is planning to complete the walk in just four weeks, on or about May 22nd, but admits that it is a race against time. MND gradually paralyses you and the rate of progress differs from case to case. Susan’s MND has started with her voice and swallowing (the ‘bulbar’ region) but will spread to her limbs, causing immobility. She expects to have lost the ability to speak by the time the walk starts, so her son Aidan (29) and daughter Jessica (27) will accompany her and be her voice.
“MND is considered a rare disease but actually affects more people than you would expect – for every 300 people born in the UK, one will be at risk of developing MND,” says Susan. “Life expectancy averages around three years from onset of symptoms. There are about 1,500 new cases diagnosed in England each year. The total number of sufferers at any one time is only around 5,000, but that’s because we don’t survive for very long.”
Would you like to join Susan on her walk?
Susan’s husband, Brian, has recently undergone a hip replacement and so is unlikely to be able to walk the entire path with her. She does not want to walk it alone and so she is calling on all her friends, family and colleagues to join her for as little or as much as they choose. At the time of writing 157 people have signed up. A few hardy souls are attempting the entire journey but most are choosing a portion of it, and there is still time to sign up. “It’s going to be quite a party,” she says. Susan will also be supported by. “We are looking to average about 12 miles a day, with one day off each week.” She would love to hear from anyone who would like to support the cause, either by joining her on the walk or simply by donating. Anyone looking to get involved should visit https://millsb.net/pwp or to make a donation go to: https://justgiving.com/susan-fletcher-watts