Oxfordshire woman to battle the Pennine Way and Motor Neurone Disease

An Oxfordshire woman is planning to walk the Pennine Way in one go to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and funds in a bid to help beat the killer, provided she can keep her own disease at bay for long enough.

Susan Fletcher WattsBrave Susan Fletcher Watts, who lives in Blewbury, 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 and has already raised £11017 of her provisional £15000 target.

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, in spring this year: 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.  The question is When?

“Shortly after I was diagnosed I was talking to my Neurologist about what I was planning.  He told me I would probably be all right ,so long as I did it by next spring or early summer at the latest,” she said.

“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 an MND victim.  Life expectancy averages around three years from onset of symptoms: at present there is no cure and no effective treatment.  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.”

Susan Fletcher Watts ready to tackle the peninesBut Susan’s plans have a hitch.  She wants her husband to join her but he has undergone a hip replacement and so is unlikely to be able to walk the entire path.  Susan 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.

She has reached out to over 300 people.  A few hardy souls are attempting the entire journey but most are choosing a portion of it.  “It’s going to be quite a party,” says Susan.  Susan will also be supported by her son Aidan (29) and daughter Jessica (27).  She expects to have lost the ability to speak by the time the walk starts so they will be her voice.

Susan who has a degree in Chemistry, works as a Patent Attorney and is employed by diamond producers De Beers where she helps protect the company’s innovations in both natural and lab-grown diamonds.

She is hoping to raise at least £15,000 from her walk to go to the MND Association to help the charity’s working in funding of research to find a cure.

“We are looking to average about 12 miles a day, with one day off each week, but I know there is at least one 20 mile day where you are just absolutely out in the wilds.  I know it is going to be tough and there’s plenty of training to be done before we take the first real step.  So I would love to hear from anyone who would like to support the cause.”

There is already a website for the event and anyone looking to get involved should visit here: https://millsb.net/pwp or to make a donation go to: https://justgiving.com/susan-fletcher-watts

What is Motor neurone disease?

It’s an uncommon medical condition that affects the brain and nerves. Symptoms include muscle weakness, twitches, slurred speech and difficulty swallowing. The symptoms get worse over time as cells in the brain and nerves stop working.

Treatment include physiotherapy, speech therapy and medicines but can only ease the symptoms,

What is the Pennine Way?

The Pennine Way is one of the UK’s most famous long-distance walks that stretches for 268 miles (435km) from the hills of the Derbyshire Peak District to the Scottish Borders in Kirk Yetholm. The route includes the Yorkshire Dales, Swaledale Valley, the North Pennine, Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, and the Cheviot Hills.