This project started as a quirky idea between a couple of friends. One of them, whose name is Miles, had recently been diagnosed with a type of MND.
We decided to find 26 people who’s lives had been touched by motor neurone disease. We’d interview and photograph them, then publish the pictures and edited interviews on Instagram one at a time over 26 days leading up to Cristian running the Tallinn marathon – yes a 26(.219) mile run. To truly live up to the name “26 Miles”, Miles appeared in each of the 26 photos too!
Here we are just after the idea was hatched back in 2015 –
We wanted to raise awareness about motor neurone disease and some money for the MND Association.
Now we are making 26 Miles 4 MND into a book that will be published next year during the 40th anniversary of the MND Association. It will include the original 26 photos plus several more people who are luminaries in the world of MND. In fact we’re just back from Torquay where we photographed a game-changing MND trailblazer. More about that on here soon.
Cristian and I have taken another 6 portraits which gets us very close to the final 26!
When we started the project Sarah Ezekiel (who you’ll remember from my last post) suggested we had to include actress Gina Bellman in our 26 Miles portraits. Gina became a household name in 1989 for her performance as the title role in Dennis Potter’s drama “Blackeyes”. She’s also well-known as Jane in the sitcom “Coupling” and for acting alongside James Nesbitt in the BBC drama Jekyll. Over in the States she has a huge fan following from her role as Sophie Devereaux on the TNT television series Leverage.
Gina’s mother has the rare primary lateral sclerosis variant of MND that I’ve been diagnosed with.
In a weird way getting Primary Lateral sclerosis (PLS) is equivalent to winning the MND lottery because it’s the rarest of the 4 or 5 different subtypes. The disease usually develops very slowly and is unlikely to cause us to die. PLS can develop into ALS but most patients lead long (but increasingly disabled) lives.
I’ve heard it said that some in the “MND community” say the lucky MND patients are the ones who go early. I really disagree and think that every person we have met in the 14 months doing this project would too.
Yes it’s rubbish being ill – Attempting to do the simplest of tasks now leaves me worn out for the rest of the day, I find it increasingly difficult to walk and have to use a scooter to get around. It makes me depressed if I let it BUT the damaged motor neurones causing my body to “not work” are not me! I’m still as stubborn and determined as I was 10 years ago. In fact I’m probably more so since developing MND.
Gina says something similar about her mum:
“In a way the MND makes her even more determined to be independent than if she was a perfectly healthy 81-year-old. None of us expected her to keep going like a Duracell battery…other people in my mum’s friend group have died of age related diseases but mum’s still going strong, being stubborn, being independent.”