Ataxia is an umbrella term for a group of rather rare progressive neurological conditions (affecting just 1 in 7,000 people in the UK).
Symptoms include loss of balance, loss of fine-motor muscle coordination, and speech/swallowing difficulties.
Ataxia can also lead to fatal complications (not always though: it is often more life limiting than life ending).
For a visual explanation of the affects of ataxia, please watch the following two videos (the first of which was my very first introduction to this thing called “ataxia” after my diagnosis in 2015). Both videos feature an amazingly brave young girl called Millie-Mae, and are about her first diagnosis (when she was just 10 years old), and a later video which explains how ataxia affects her three years later – and at an age when young people are very conscious of how they appear to others:
And, rather sadly, I also learned that the medical research which aims to find a cure for this condition, and which is currently being done in a variety of medical laboratories across the planet, is reliant on charity for its continued funding.
So, to do my bit, and to raise some of the money needed, I started “walking”.
Between 2015 and 2017, and while I could still walk reasonably well (although I increasingly had to rely on my walking stick, mainly for balance at that stage), I “walked”.
Raising £1,100, and immeasurable amounts of ataxia-awareness, at the same time.
The longest of these walks was a 500-mile trek down the Mediterranean coast of Spain in 2016. All previous walks:
And all the time while wearing my rather fetching kilt (which I did to raise even more attention – and donations: both from the people who I talked to as I walked, and from the media – national and international).
My final “walk” was actually the highlight for me though. I was invited to participate with a group of celebrities (Jonnie Peacock, Adam Hills and a whole host of CBE/MBE-awarded paralympians and Invictus Games heroes) at the nPower-sponsored “Winter Wonderwheels” event in December 2017.
By 2018 my ataxia had progressed to the stage where I had to use a wheelchair to get around though. However, I still wanted to continue with fundraising/awareness-raising activities. And as travel has always been pretty important for me, combining a love of travel with fundraising was the obvious answer.
So, as travelling the world through other people’s eyes – is much better than no travel at all for me: