Sending MND awareness out into the world.

Great news! At this rate in about three weeks all of our books may be sold. Every copy sent into the world is helping raise awareness of motor neurone disease. I hope you’ll agree it’s worth continuing this and to do so we’ll need another print run. So starting from now, ten pounds from each book sold will go towards having more printed. The other five pounds will still go directly to the MND Association. Every book sold creates more awareness and more cash to defeat MND! Thanks everyone who’s bought a copy so far.

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Portrait no.26

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26 of 26. Euan MacDonald MBE. Euan was 29 years old when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2003. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife and two sons. Following his diagnosis, Euan and his father Donald MacDonald CBE resolved to ensure MND research was brought to the forefront of everyone’s mind in Edinburgh and further afield. Being entrepreneurs from investment backgrounds, they established the internationally recognised centre for MND research – The Euan MacDonald Centre. We photographed Euan there in June this year. “The last 15 years have been full of ups, downs, changes and adaptations. When I was first diagnosed the situation was similar to what it is now with only one drug approved to treat MND. Its effects are minimal. But huge strides have been made in areas like genetics and stem cells. I'm convinced treatments will come. Spending time with people like Professor Siddharthan Chandran and others just gives you more confidence in that. While we're waiting for those treatments, I should mention something that has improved my quality of life and extended it – my tracheostomy. It was done 6 years ago after I was admitted to hospital with a chest infection. Tracheostomies for people with MND are rare in the UK. Research has suggested that in an 18 year period there were 38 of us. The reason I'm so passionate about it is because of what it's given me – 6 more years (and counting) with family and friends. 6 more years with my boys. It's impossible to put the value into words. It’s not for everyone but I know I was the recipient of complete pot luck, not a systematic approach. I happened to be under the care of an anaesthetist who said it was an option and they could deal with the after care in my home. There are not many home ventilation teams, experienced in keeping people with a tracheostomy in the community, in the UK. I'm asking that pot luck be taken out of it – and that it can be an option regardless of where you live. I'd like to say thanks to Miles and Cristian. What they are doing with 26Miles4MND gives more hope for people like me that MND will one day be a thing of the past!” Donate: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

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To support the work of the MND Association, donate here – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

or text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thank you 🙂

Portrait no.25

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25 of 26 We were absolutely thrilled when pop and rock star Kim Wilde agreed to be photographed to support 26Miles4MND. Kim is married to a good friend of Miles, the actor Hal Fowler. Close mates at school, whilst Miles went into photography and television, Hal decided to take to the stage. It was when he played the part of Cousin Kevin in the stage show of the Who musical Tommy that he met Kim Wilde who was playing Tommy’s mother. That was in early 1996. Hal proposed to Kim in June and on September 1st the same year they were married. Hal’s West End credits include Alex in Aspects of Love, Billy Bigelow in Carousel, Javert in Les Miserables and Arnaud du Thil in Martin Guerre. He’s also acted in many TV dramas as well as appearing on the big screen, most recently in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Kim is obviously most famous for her hit 1981 single Kids In America but she’s also had seven other UK top ten singles. Many of you will know she has been busy touring this year promoting her new album “Here Come the Aliens” which has put her back in the UK album charts for the first time since 1993 reaching no.21! The 26Miles4MND photoshoot took place at Kim’s beautiful 16th century barn conversion in 2015. Little did Miles know at the start of the day that he’d be playing guitar with a rock and pop legend! Slide the picture to see Hal and Miles too. To donate to the MND Association – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

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To support the work of the MND Association, donate here – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

or text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thank you 🙂

Portrait no.24

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24 of 26 Children’s author Suzanne Maguire was diagnosed with ALS variant MND in 2002 at Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), which has large laboratories carrying out research funded by the MND Association. Suzanne is one of the remarkable few with MND still alive and relatively mobile sixteen years after diagnosis. Miles interviewed her at SITraN where she spoke about how it made her feel to have seen scientists working in the labs on MND research. “I’ve been here twice on open days and we have walked around the laboratories and seen the Zebra Fish they use for research, had each department explained to us and what they are hoping to achieve. It does make me very emotional because they are trying to find a cure and help people like you and I live a longer life. When I was diagnosed by Professor Pamela Shaw, I hadn’t a clue what MND was. My mother Eve was sitting behind me and she knew exactly what motor neurone disease was but I had never heard of it before. It was only when Professor Shaw began to describe it in detail and mentioned two to five years average lifespan that I realised it was so serious. The penny dropped and I realised it was a lot, lot more serious than I had anticipated. Initially I just had a weakness in my arms. Making cups of tea and carrying the tea bag to the bin I noticed a weakness. To be honest I never thought anything of it but thought 'hey ho, let’s go to the doctors’ and then five months later I’m being told it’s likely I’ll be dead in less than five years. I certainly see life in a different way as it’s made me more aware of my mortality. I was thirty-six when I was diagnosed and at thirty-six you are in the prime of your life! Now every day I wake up and I’m stiff, I’m weak. I find I’m relying on my loved ones more – ‘can you carry this? Can you open this? Can you cook? Can you vacuum?’. But I enjoy the birds singing, I enjoy our countryside far more. My mortality has been questioned. You don’t have the luxury of waiting until you’re eighty years old to sell up and get that cabin by the sea". . To help the work of the MND Association donate here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

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To support the work of the MND Association, donate here – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

or text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thank you 🙂

Portrait no.23

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23 of 26 Anita Sharma-James is Chair of the Worcestershire branch of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, a role she does as a volunteer. Her mother died of ALS in early 2011 at the age of sixty-eight, many years after migrating to the UK from India in the 1970’s when Anita was a baby. “I grew up in Harborne, Birmingham. My dad had come over in the fifties with his father and just worked really hard, then went back to India, got married and came back. He had worked so hard that he’d earned enough in three years to buy a house outright. Then he invited my mother and I to come over. It was a very interesting childhood in the seventies. I was asked to become chair of our local branch after the previous chair resigned and one of the board had died from MND. I’d been inspired by my mother so much but I don’t think I could have done it around the time that she passed away. I needed that distance in time to get out of the way of myself in order to help others. You can’t bring your own baggage. But with that distance you bring the experience as well, and the empathy. So I thought that it was something I could do and I wanted to do it well. The MND Association is one of the most well run and well organised charities. There seems to be expertise in everything related to MND. I’m so well supported as a chair as well. Experts in every field are at my finger tips. That filters down to those with MND. It’s incredible really. To anybody with MND my advice is don’t lose heart. Don’t panic. There’s so much out there that’s going to cradle you. Stay being the person that you want to be for as long as you can. There’s a lot that can be done. To carers of people with MND my advice would be to make the best of each day and try not to worry too much about the future. You will need to have adequate support in place to be able to help your loved one. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support from the MND Association. Carers need respite. Don’t feel that you’ve got to do it yourselves.” . To help the work of the MND Association donate here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

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To support the work of the MND Association, donate here – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

or text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thank you 🙂

Portrait no.22

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22 of 26 Professor Dame Pamela Shaw is a big hitter in the world of MND. She was made a dame in 2014 for her internationally recognised contribution to neurosciences, and particularly through the pioneering work she leads at SITran – The Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience. “The first gene that was found to cause familial MND was back in 1993 and it’s called SOD1 – Not a bad name for a disease that causes MND! That gene code is for a protein whose normal function is to scavenge the free radicals that we produce as our cells are generating energy. There are now about thirty genes we’ve found that can cause MND. A tiny change in one building block of the SOD1 gene causes familial MND. At SITran we’ve shown that if you knock out that SOD1 gene with gene therapy you can just about cure mice of MND and the mice remain fine because there are other proteins that can do the same job. We are doing a human trial. There are various ways of doing gene therapy. One, which is the method we used in the mice, is to use a viral carrier (or vector) where the virus is harmless but we put inside the viral carrier a molecule and when it gets into the nervous system it knocks down the level of SOD1. In Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), which is a childhood form of MND, that viral vector has been used to knock out SOD1 in children with SMA in a US trial. Children with SMA usually die of their MND within 2 years of being born. One dose of that viral vector and those kids are now normal toddlers so it’s fantastic! It will come for adult MND as well shortly I hope. In the meantime there’s a way of injecting a substance known as ASO. A lumbar puncture injection of this and that knocks down the SOD1 gene. It’s an international study and SiTran is the UK site. We’ve been doing it for about 18 months. The first two patients that we put into the trial have been sending videos of themselves walking up the garden steps that they hadn’t been able to do for three years. I’ve done probably twenty-four new treatment trials in MND and I have never ever heard people say they have improved before in a trial.” To help donate here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

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To support the work of the MND Association, donate here – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

or text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thank you 🙂

Portrait no.21

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21 of 26 Jay Parker had been in his job as social media officer for the MND Association for five months when we interviewed him at their HQ, David Niven House in 2015. “MND ranks quite highly on the cruelty scale. It seems like torture to me. I couldn’t imagine having it. It has scared me and it makes me want to do things sooner in life rather than later just in case there’s something awful lurking round the corner. Since starting here I’ve seen lots of documentaries and things like that about people who have lived a normal life, quite happy then suddenly were just struck down with MND and it destroyed their lives. So yeah, it’s high up there for a terrible disease. In my job in social media we can measure success in numbers. Since the Ice Bucket Challenge the likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter have more than doubled. My goal would be to keep raising that awareness. Making sure people know what MND is. In fact I’m even doing that in my own family. I’ve only been here five months but I’ve fed back everything I’m learning in this job straight to my family – My sister and mum and dad. They’d not heard of MND either but now they feel exactly the same way as me. They all think it’s absolutely horrible.” To help the MND Association donate using this URL https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

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To support the work of the MND Association, donate here – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

or text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thank you 🙂

Portrait no.20

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20 of 26 Belinda Cupid left a job working in cancer research as a biochemist to join the MND Association. When we interviewed her in 2015 she’d been at the Association for fifteen years and was their Head of Research. She now works at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. “Although I had not done any research about MND before, after I got the job and started mentioning motor neurone disease to friends all these people seemed to appear who had connections to the disease. It was really staggering! I had a job working in a lab but wanted to work more with people as well as use my research knowledge. A vacancy here came up that I got and I really haven’t looked back! I meet people with MND when I go out and give talks explaining what’s going on in research. When you find out that someone with MND loses their independence and loses their voice and everything else that goes with this disease, that catches people’s attention and they want to help. That’s why there’s such a huge commitment by the staff at the MND Association. They’re always willing to do anything they can. It’s probably one of the reasons why I stayed here so long!” . To help support the work of the motor neurone disease, you can donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd #MND #ALS #running #marathon #Tallinn

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To support the work of the MND Association, donate here – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

or text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thank you 🙂

Portrait no.19

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19 of 26 Professor Siddharthan Chandran is the MacDonald Professor and Head of Neurology at the University of Edinburgh and director at the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research. His research combines specialist clinics with laboratory research on human stem cells. “I always advise newly diagnosed people to look at the MND Association website as that’s a very good website. I encourage them to sign up for research studies and I talk to them about research. I do that for various reasons, not least that we need it, but what I’ve learnt from people with the disease and their families is the value of research to the person and their family. Riluzole is the only globally licensed medicine and it is marginally beneficial – giving an extra one, two or three months to a persons lifespan. What everybody wants is something that will profoundly slow MND down. Even by six months or twelve months. Delay time for breathing support, for feeding support. It would be spectacular if we could buy a year! I’m professionally an optimist. I’ve seen great change in my career time in other diseases – MS has undergone a revolution in treatment since I was at medical school. I think MND is ripe for change and it would be terrific to contribute to that. I’m also hopeful because all the people I meet with the disease and all the families are up for promoting and enabling research. They want it. They need it. The least we can do is try and meet their expectations. My ambition, and the reason for coming up to Edinburgh (it wasn’t for the weather) is because Edinburgh has made a claim and has prioritised and continues to make strategic investments in this emerging area of medicine called regenerative medicine. There will come a day when neurologists will not only slow MND down and stop it, but in some instances begin to devise ways that you can restore and give back, to an extent, that which has been lost. I’m a great believer in that. I think it will happen.” . To help the work of the Motor Neurone Disease Association donate via our Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

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To support the work of the MND Association, donate here – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

or text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thank you 🙂

Portrait no.11

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11 of 26. Karen Morrison, professor of neurology at University Hospital Southampton. When interviewed in 2016, Professor Karen Morrison was Bloomer Professor of Neurology, University of Birmingham and Honorary Consultant Neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. She’s now Associate Dean, Education and Student Experience, Professor of Neurology and Director of Education, Honorary Consultant Neurologist at University Hospital Southampton. She was the specialist who confirmed Miles’s diagnosis of primary lateral sclerosis variant MND in 2013. “I have seen hundreds if not thousands of people with MND and every one of them is an individual. As I’ve got older and wiser I realise that just the interaction with the individual patients is what counts as being a good doctor for them. Yes, we have been working towards finding effective treatments but actually at the end of the day patients want you to be a good doctor above all, and certainly that’s what I feel I have in my control at the moment. We don’t have a treatment that stops the neurodegeneration. If only we had a treatment that slowed it down so that even if it progressed, if it progressed over thirty or forty years on average, that would be a real step forwards. So we don’t have that, but our knowledge about what causes the disease has increased so much over the last twenty years. I do think that treatments that really will make a difference will be here within the next ten years. From my experience, people with MND can live with such spirit. I’m a big advocate of never giving up hope and actually there’s much more to a fulfilled life than being able to wiggle your big toe! I am constantly amazed by the resilience of the human spirit in the face of this disease. I think it's really important that everyone, doctors included, travels with hope because I think travelling hopefully is a so much better way to travel than to travel with none.” ___________________________________________ Help find an effective treatment for MND by donating here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd #MND #ALS #running #marathon #Tallinn #motorneuronedisease

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Portrait no.8

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8 of 26. Michael Wenham. Michael Wenham worked as an English teacher before training as a vicar. For many years he was the vicar of three village churches in Oxfordshire before MND caused him to retire. He’s been living with the primary lateral sclerosis form of motor neurone disease for more than eighteen years. A journal written throughout his illness has been turned into a book called “My Donkey Body”. It tracks the despair he’s felt at times as his body gives up, and the darkness that descends as his mind feels trapped. “I didn’t want to preach, nor give false comfort. I just wanted to say this is a bit what it’s like. It’s pretty awful. But it’s not all darkness. I feel grateful, apprehensive and occasionally very tired! The worst thing about living with PLS is the frustration and its prolonged nature. The good thing is being forced off the treadmill of activity. My consultant is right – There are pluses and minuses about living with PLS as opposed to ALS – It's a long haul living with PLS.” www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd #mnd #pls #als #PrimaryLateralSclerosis #running #TallinnMarathon

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Portrait no.4

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4 of 26 Ian Pratt. In 2012 at the age of 42, UK based Australian Ian Pratt was diagnosed with the ALS variant of motor neurone disease. “I used to have really severe muscle cramps and twitches for no reason. I’d be sitting there in the lounge, my wife Catherine would be lying on my arm and she’d say ‘oh your arms twitching’. So that’s how it started. I insisted on a copy of my referral letter and in it they queried whether it might be motor neurone disease. I had no idea what motor neurone disease was. I did a Google search and that was when I found out about MND. When I read that my heart really sank, but you know unfortunately everything fitted. It’s the only diagnosis that comes with this apology: ‘I’m sorry to tell you that you have motor neurone disease and there’s bugger all I can do to help you'. But I’ve always been a glass half full kind of guy. Yes it’s sad that I wont be here to enjoy lots of things but it's not a definite for me any more because there is lots of hope out there and my hope is that they’ll find a cure for this thing in my lifetime." . www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd #mnd #running #mnda #tallinnmarathon

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A 26 Miles road trip…

…actually a lot more than twenty-six

The challenge of 26 Miles 4 MND is for Cristian Barnett and myself to collect the stories of twenty-six people connected by the condition called motor neurone disease – from eminent professors to people living with MND and many interesting and often surprising people in-between. There will be twenty six stories, twenty six photographs and a lot more as well.

A few days ago Cristian and I travelled nearly a thousand miles in three days to get four more stories for the collection. It’s left me very tired and I should be resting but I’m aching (literally!) to get this blog post done because we again met some really inspirational people.

In Edinburgh we photographed Euan MacDonald and Professor Siddharthan Chandran of the Euan MacDonald MND centre.

The day before, we visited SITraN in Sheffield and met Dame Professor Pamela Shaw and children’s author Suzanne Maguire who are also supporting 26 Miles 4 MND. All of these people in their own ways are doing their bit to try to rid the world of motor neurone disease.

SITran and the Aubergine van.

The amazing “Mr B” did all the driving and miraculously fitted in two training runs in preparation for his marathon in September. That twenty-six mile run will be the culmination of the fundraising part of the project! – please donate here!!!!

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Driving home we were treated to some beautiful scenery –

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A marathon project

26 Miles was meant to take six months but three years on, after a lot of hard work and mileage, it’s only just nearing the finishing line. Many wonderful, talented and often extremely busy people have given us their time to take part. We thank them all.

A “26 Miles” book?

There’s work to do yet, and I wish we could include even more people but we’re hitting against that magic number 26 now. I’m currently transcribing and editing down the interviews, Cristian will be processing the main photos. A talented designer has offered her services and excitingly it looks like the project will become a book.

We want to make the book an approachable, entertaining resource for people touched by MND and also a tool to raise awareness amongst the general public. It will also include interviews and photos of the celebrities who have supported us – including Kim Wilde!

Money raised from “26 Miles”, which includes sponsorship for Cristian’s marathon run and any money made from the book, will go to the MND Association.

We have a Just Giving Page – Any donation large or small is greatly appreciated.

Please help us to end one of the cruellest diseases known by donating and sharing the word about our 26 Miles 4 MND project.

Next year will be the 40th anniversary of the MND Association. Let’s see if that can be the year when we have a big breakthrough for a treatment!

Some facts:

There is still no cure for MND and no effective treatment. As things are right now, it is arguably the cruellest of all diseases: All forms of MND lead to increasing paralysis taking away a persons independence and more often than not taking away their voice. It kills most sufferers within 2 years of diagnosis yet at any one time there are 5,000 people in the UK with MND – so it’s not rare! There is up to a 1 in 300 lifetime risk of developing MND. It affects over 400,000 of the world’s population and kills over 100,000 every year.

So please spread the word and if you can donate here. Thank you 🙂

Putting the MND message out there

A couple of months ago I was asked to write a contribution for a book from the point of view of somebody with motor neurone disease. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges were celebrating their 20th anniversary with a publication called 20 / 20 that looked at the past and future twenty years of healthcare.

Miles in book

I really appreciate the MND Association for passing my details onto the book’s creators. It’s given us another opportunity to create publicity about motor neurone disease – an illness that can seem like a taboo subject in non MND circles.

Expecting a tiny photo and a short paragraph I was bowled over to see that I’d been given a double page spread near the front of the book. It’s wonderful that my contribution will be read by a lot of health professionals who might not otherwise think about MND.

The launch was at the House of Lords on the hottest day of the summer so far. Here I am braving the sun before ducking back inside for another canapé.

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Chris Van Tulleken (of twin brother TV doctors fame) was at the reception and I got to chat with him about MND. He admitted that, like most doctors, he actually had very little knowledge about it. That’s not surprising when you consider on average a GP will refer only one or two patients with suspected MND to a neurologist in their whole career.

He seemed like a great guy and was genuinely interested. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could feature MND in one of his TV items? – I’m going to email the MND Association VIP department and ask them to make contact.

I also found a new portrait subject for the 26 Miles 4 MND project – The Academy’s publications manager Rosie Carlow whose father sadly died of ALS.

You know, I am no longer amazed that virtually everyone I speak to knows someone who has been affected by MND. It is definitely not the rare condition we’ve always been told it is.

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26 Miles 4 MND – Near the finishing line!

Cristian and I expect to have all the photos finished before the end of the year and we now hope to exhibit them at an Academy of Medical Royal Colleges venue too…..all exciting stuff.

I also have a backlog of blog posts from behind the scenes of our photo shoots arriving here very soon. Keep watching this space.

It’s a photographic marathon but we are reaching the home stretch!

Don’t forget, the money we’re raising is helping the Motor Neurone Disease Association  – the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland focused on MND care, research and campaigning.

If you want a reminder of what we are all about, click HERE.

Nearly a thousand pounds has already gone to the MND Association. If you’d like to help us achieve our goal of £2,600 here is the link to our donation page or you can donate via your mobile phone – Text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

 

A resurrected friendship

Just before Easter I spent the weekend with an old friend of mine who’s supporting the 26 Miles 4 MND project. He happens to be a successful actor these days, and the husband of Kim Wilde.

Here’s a picture of Hal and I relaxing in the jacuzzi that’s in their back yard –

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“Cheers”

Hal Fowler was my best mate during our teenage school years. At the time our lives felt very creative, quite chaotic and we enjoyed breaking the rules. In truth though it was all fairly innocent and we never actually went too far: We ended up in hospital just once due to too much “high spirits” and although we had a few encounters with the police, we were never actually arrested!

The best months were the ones we had off school to revise for our “O” and “A” levels. Not much revision got done – They were sunny summers and we spent most of the time getting pissed, pushing boundaries and pulling girls. Needless to say Hal and I both ended up “qualification challenged”, though in our individual ways that hasn’t held either of us back in life.

To be honest it was mostly Hal who did the pulling girls. He seemed to have the knack. It was a knack that continued after school, through his time at drama college and then onto the West End stage. Whilst acting in The Who’s musical Tommy, Hal “pulled” Kim Wilde. At that precise moment his pulling career ended. They fell in love and the rest, as they say, is history.

picking up where we left off

Apart from going to each others weddings, there was little contact between Hal and I in 27 years. Then I sent Hal a text about the “26 Miles” project raising money for the MND Association and he agreed to get involved. It’s resurrected our friendship which happily these days is a bit less hedonistic.

Hal regularly appears on stage, TV and the big screen. He’s acted in West End musicals and is currently playing Cheshire Cat in wonder.land at the National Theatre.

Years before Hal’s professional performing career we’d perform together in our home city of Oxford – busking – I’d sing and play guitar, Hal would sing and accompany on his double bass. We were good at it too! We’d get there and back in a battered Citroen 2 CV with the neck of Hal’s bass sticking through the open sun roof. All of the money was spent in the pub later. Fun times!

There are no pictures of us in that 2 CV, but here are some behind the scenes shots from the morning Cristian and I spent at Hal and Kim’s taking their 26 Miles portraits. We resurrected our busking duo for the day – I think you can see that we still have “it”… whatever “it” is….

(Click on the first picture to enter the gallery)

Cristian and I are having fun on our “26 Miles” journey and we hope you enjoy following us on this blog, but the reason we are doing it is deadly serious. We are trying to raise £2,600.00, or more, for the Motor Neurone Disease Association – the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland focused on MND care, research and campaigning.

Click HERE for the background to our money raising campaign.

MND is a terrifyingly cruel disease that can leave people locked in a failing body, unable to move, talk, swallow and eventually breathe. It kills a third of people within a year and more than half within two years of diagnosis.

If you’d like to help us achieve our goal here is the link to our donation page or you can donate via your mobile phone – Text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thanks so much for reading 🙂

Why do “You Keep Me Hanging On”?

We’ve been sent a message by a follower of our twentysixmiles blog. He said why do “you keep me hanging on” Miles? What happened to the portrait shoot with Kim Wilde?

The shoot was in October and it’s true, we’ve not published a post about it yet. The sad fact is that a few days after the photography Miles’s wife told him she wanted them to separate. Sadly the stress of living with MND has (at least in part) made Miles’s marriage another victim of this wretched disease.

This is why we’ve got behind with our marathon photo project, but like all true charity marathon runners we will get to the finish – and  we’re “Another Step Closer” to the finishing line with this post because… just for you Terry Brown (and all the many other Kim Wilde fans out there), here are some “behind the scenes” photos from our portrait shoot with Kim taken at her beautiful house in Hertfordshire last October. (Click on the first image to enter the gallery).

 

The main portrait of Kim and Miles will be published on 26Miles4MND once we’ve confirmed the date of Cristian’s marathon run.

Don’t forget, although we are having fun creating the 26Miles4MND project, and we hope you are having fun following the journey, it’s all about raising money for the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for people with motor neurone disease.

  • A person’s lifetime risk of developing MND is up to 1 in 400. That’s one person in an average size cinema screen.
  • Motor neurone disease kills a third of people within a year and more than half within two years of diagnosis.
  • MND can leave people locked in a failing body, unable to move, talk, swallow and eventually breathe.

So it’s a deadly serious thing. If you’d like to help us raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, click here to go to our Just Giving site or you can donate via your mobile phone – Text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Any amount of money helps and will be greatly appreciated by everybody who has to live with this awful, cruel disease.

Thank you.

“The brain is plastic…..”

If this 26Miles4MND marathon fundraising project was a real, human entrant in the London marathon, it would be in a pantomime horse outfit, dodging London traffic, only half finished two weeks after the race was officially over.

Sorry. I’ve got no excuse – I’ve just had a ton of stuff going on in my personal life and Cristian has been inundated with photographic work.

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Climbing the wall….

So we seemed to have hit a wall of the sort marathon runners (apparently) experience, but we’re teetering at the summit and are about to come down the other side. Recently we took another portrait and more are in the pipeline.

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A few days ago we interviewed and photographed the formidable Professor Karen Morrison (pictured above with Cristian). She is my neurology consultant and the person who diagnosed me as having a variant of motor neurone disease back in 2013.

The pictured “plastic brain” was used as a prop in her portrait. I’d definitely count her as one of the most intelligent people that I’ve ever met. She really is quite awe inspiring –

Professor Morrison trained at both Oxford and Cambridge universities, also trained in America and once spent time amongst Inuit people living in their traditional accommodation – again as part of the journey  to being one of the foremost experts on motor neurone disease in the UK.

….Whilst chatting to her and hearing the fascinating information about her life, I also found out that my joke about brains being “plastic in real life too”, is something she’s heard many, many times before. I think she actually shook her head in disbelief when I said it. Brains are plastic though – look it up if you don’t believe me 😉

Here are some photos of one great brain and some others doing what they do best – hanging around pointing cameras at people. There’s also a sneak preview of what the finished portrait could be like if you click on the pictures and look closely.

I’ll be writing more about Professor Morrison and why she chose to specialise in neurology and motor neurone disease in particular when we publish the 26 portraits in the month leading up to Cristian’s marathon.

  • In case you’d forgotten, or this is your first time here, 26Miles4MND is a marathon portrait photography project being undertaken by the editorial photographer Cristian Barnett and his close friend Miles Pilling (who happens to have a type of MND).
  • We are taking 26 portraits of people who’s lives are / have been affected by motor neurone disease. Cristian has persuaded me to be in each of the portraits alongside every subject. They are all being shot in a similar unique style.
  • Cristian will be running a marathon once all the portraits have been taken.
  • On each of 26 days leading up to the marathon, we will publish one of his photographic portraits and a brief piece of writing to accompany it.
  • So there will be 26 pictures of Miles alongside the individuals that we have persuaded to take part and Cristian will be running 26 miles. Hence: 26miles4mnd
  • We have also persuaded some household names with links to Miles in his former life at the BBC and beyond to be photographed. These portraits will be separate from the other 26 and will hopefully help to raise awareness in what we are trying to achieve. Keep in touch with the project at @26miles4mnd or https://www.facebook.com/26miles4MND or bookmark this website to see their photos when we publish them.

We’ve already raised just under a thousand pounds. Our target is two thousand six hundred. The money people have kindly donated so far has already gone to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Our hope is that during the 26 days leading up to Cristian’s heroic marathon attempt, people around the web and also in the real world will become interested, start talking and sharing about the project and the money will start to flow in. It would be absolutely fantastic to make more than our target figure.

If you’d like to help us achieve that, here is the link to our donation page again, or you can donate via your mobile phone – Text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thanks for reading 🙂

Getting quite excited now…you could say Wilde even…

Tomorrow we will be photographing Kim Wilde and her husband the actor Hal Fowler for 2 more of our 26 Miles celebrity portraits. Can’t wait to see her and my old mate Hal again.

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Kim Wilde singing Kids In America in 1981

http://www.kimwilde.com/

After that we’ll be interviewing and photographing Sarah Ezekiel for another of our 26 MND portraits. We are slowly but surely getting closer to our target (and nearer to Cristian having to run 26 miles – the poor git!).
Here’s a link to Sarah’s website. She creates amzing art using Eye Gaze technology. Well worth a look if you are already thinking about Christmas –
http://sarahezekiel.com/#/eyegaze-art/4562566580

Stories and photos will be on here soon 🙂

The Australian fighting spirit

We came away from Pride of Britain “Fundraiser of the Year” Paula Maguire feeling drenched in positivity and I didn’t think we’d find anybody as positive again during the rest of the 26 Miles 4 MND project, but there must be something in the Wakefield water as 15 minutes later we met Ian Pratt.

He’s heavily disabled by motor neurone disease – now having to use a neurological electric wheelchair and he’s lost a lot of his speech. Despite that, he does a good job of coming across as a happy person.

Ian PrattIan waiting to have his “26 Miles” portrait taken

Appropriately enough, as I write this, Australia has recently thrashed England in the Rugby World Cup. Ian was born “down under” and he has that down to earth “make the most of life” Aussie spirit that was in abundance on the rugby field. When we visited, his mum was over here on holiday and the sun shone on us and the Maguires as we set up our kit in his beautiful garden. It was all so pleasant and Ian’s such a nice guy that I had to keep reminding myself of just how ill he is.

Because we’ve been meeting so many positive people, Cristian and I were beginning to worry that 26 Miles 4 MND wouldn’t get across the seriousness of motor neurone disease properly. People with MND tend to show an awful lot of character – which is “awfully” ironic because it might lead to people thinking “oh it’s not so bad after all”. That would be terrible. Here are three sobering facts – 5 people a day die of MND in the UK and in 2012, 1 out of every 232 people who died in England had MND. Many people with MND are trapped within a body that won’t move and are totally reliant on the help of others.

More than one person has remarked to me that motor neurone disease is more cruel than cancer because, unlike most cancers, a diagnosis of motor neurone disease comes with absolutely no hope and still no effective treatment.

021015_172Ian was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of just 42 after undergoing tests on his daughter’s second birthday. For a reality check, compare a picture of him on his wedding day 5 years ago with how he is today.

“I’m sure it’s the only diagnosis that comes with an apology – I’m sorry to tell you, you’ve got motor neurone disease and there’s bugger all I can do to help you.”

On the day we visited, he had spent the morning chasing up repairs to his brand new electric wheelchair and was stuck in an old manual one, unable to do anything for himself. Remarkably he was still smiling despite the fact that, as he told me with his soft Australian accent, he was having a “shit day”.

Whilst we were setting up, the repaired wheelchair arrived. I asked Ian if I could photograph him being moved into it to show just what motor neurone disease does to a person. Within three years he’s basically become a rag doll. He has to be fed and as he said himself, ” I can’t even wipe my own bum”.

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“I’ve always been a half full kind of guy. I know I’m probably going to die from it so I do everything I can to enjoy the time I have with my daughter and my wife.”

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When we visited Ian, his daughter had just lost her first tooth. He’s never going to give up his fight and is hopeful that treatments and a possible cure might be found during his lifetime. As he said –

“I can’t give up because it would piss me off to think that if I give up today, tomorrow they may find a cure.”

021015_301-EditMyself, Ian and his mum

Cristian’s 26 Miles 4 MND portrait of Ian will be published as one of the 26 portraits during 26 days leading up to Cristian’s marathon fundraising run. If you’d like to donate to help find a cure for Ian and other’s like him, click here for our Just Giving page.

(click on any image below to enter a gallery of shots taken during Ian’s photo shoot)

Meeting a warm hearted Ice Queen

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Cristian getting a bit too excited at the thought of Paula and I having icy water thrown over us (he stayed behind the camera!).

I suppose if you visit the home of newly crowned Pride of Britain “Fundraiser of The Year” Paula Maguire, Ice has to make an appearance at some point.

Paula was the lady that spotted the fund-raising potential of humans throwing buckets of icy water over each other.

She started the UK version of the phenomenon called the Ice Bucket Challenge, to raise much-needed money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Starting with a humble target of five hundred pounds, by yesterday afternoon the total on her Just Giving page stood at four million, fourteen thousand, two hundred and seventy-nine pounds!

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Paula began raising money for the MND Association in 2009 after her uncle Stuart died just nine weeks after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Her initial aim was mainly to raise awareness because, before her uncle’s death, most of her friends and family had not even heard of the illness.

Since then she’s run every Great North Run, two Great Yorkshire Runs, a Great South Run, the Leeds Half marathon, Tough Mudders, the London Marathon, abseiled down a viaduct and jumped in the sea on Boxing Day amongst many other challenges.

But the thing that really caught the great British public’s attention, was the video she posted of herself having a bucket of iced water thrown over her. It immediately went viral, and began the Ice Bucket Challenge craze that swept the UK and raised unprecedented amounts of money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association – half of their annual income for the year!

In her uniquely selfless style, after Paula received the award, she’s quoted as having said “You only have to meet someone with motor neurone disease to see how devastating it is. I just hope Pride Of Britain will boost that awareness. I don’t do this for me, I don’t do this for awards, I do it to help all those people who are living with motor neurone disease. This award is for all of them and for those not here anymore”.

Cristian and I visited Paula and her husband Robert to photograph them as one of our 26 Miles 4 MND portraits. You’ll be able to see Cristian’s ice sharp portrait during the 26 days leading up to his marathon attempt in November / December this year. Until then, here are some more snaps taken by myself and Robert of us setting up for what was to become Paula’s TENTH Ice Bucket Challenge!

If you’d like to help the great work of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, click HERE for the “26 Miles” Just Giving Page…. We’re aiming at raising two thousand six hundred pounds. That’s a bit more ambitious than Paula’s initial five hundred pound target – Watch this space!

(click on any picture to enter the gallery)