Alison McDonald was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) just three months after giving birth to her first child, Corey.
This Sunday may be one of the only Mother’s Days she gets to spend with him as the terminal illness, which weakens the muscles, can result in losing the ability to walk, speak, eat and breathe unaided.
Despite her diagnosis, the 36-year-old is determined to make the most of the time she has.
Alison first noticed that something was wrong when she was unable to move her left leg and toes. She visited a doctor in July 2013 but, after various tests, it was still unclear what the problem was.
A few months later, she found out that she was pregnant. Tests to determine what was going on continued throughout her pregnancy but doctors were still unable to give her a diagnosis.
“I was so excited when I found out I was having Corey”, Alison explained. “I’d been trying to get pregnant for a while and couldn’t believe it was finally happening. It was also a really frustrating time for me because I didn’t know what was wrong with my leg.
“Six months into my pregnancy I had to start using crutches because my left leg had gone completely floppy. It was quite frightening because it just wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do.”
She added: “Once I was finally given the news that I had MND, in October 2014, I was shocked. I remember saying to my husband ‘Is that what Fernando Ricksen has?’ I didn’t really know what it meant and to begin with I didn’t want to know the details – I knew it was terminal and I was terrified!”
As Alison’s condition deteriorates, Corey is mostly cared for by her sister Lynn and 21-year-old niece Tammie.
“I’ve lost the strength in my arms and hands, and the last time I walked independently was on my wedding day”, she said. “I’ve been in a wheelchair since last April and can’t be left alone with my own child anymore.
“It’s heartbreaking for me to watch my family take care of my son. I can’t lift him when he cries or isn’t well, I can’t change his nappy and I’ve never even pushed him in his buggy. I have missed out on so many things that new mums get to experience.
“One of the ways I can still have quality time with my son is to read to him and sing songs and nursery rhymes – this is one of the joys in my life.
“Tammie has been a huge help. She lives with me and helps take care of Corey when my sister, Lynn, can’t. My family have been my rock. The house is always really busy with Corey, my family and the dogs, Hera and Leo. It’s great because it helps me take my mind off all of things that worry me about the future.
“Corey is what keeps me going, he gets me up in the morning. I often think about how I probably won’t be here for his 18th birthday or his wedding day, and about how much I am going to miss out on.
“But then I have to remind myself that I’m here right now and I want to take full advantage of the time I have left with him.
“I have my down days but mostly I try to remain positive. People say I have a good sense of humour about the situation. A positive mind-set keeps me strong and fighting.”
Approximately 130 people are diagnosed with the MND in Scotland each year. For a small number of cases (about 5-10%) the condition runs in the family.
Craig Stockton, MND Scotland chief executive, said: “It is important for people to know that this disease can affect anyone, even someone as young as Alison. However, it isn’t something people have to deal with alone.
“MND Scotland is here to support you and your family through this difficult journey in any way we can.”