Gordon Aikman interview: Terminally-ill campaigner on his fight to secure better care for people with motor neurone disease

Aikman has raised almost £300,000 for his Fightback campaign

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The Independent Online

Last August we reported on Gordon Aikman, who had been diagnosed in June 2014 with motor neurone disease (MND), a progressive illness that attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

The 30-year-old had recently begun using a walking stick and was attempting to come to terms with the fact that gradually he would lose the ability to walk, eat and breathe independently.

However, Mr Aikman, who lives in Edinburgh, insisted he didn't want pity. Instead, he said, he wanted help to support research into MND, in the hope of finding a cure, and to fight for better care for people with the disease.

By the time of our report, Mr Aikman had already raised more than £60,000 via his website, where he outlined his five-point "Fightback" plan, which he wanted the Scottish and UK governments to commit to implementing.

Over the past 10 months the donations have continued to pour in, and the total now stands at just over £297,000. "It's hugely encouraging that strangers are willing to dig so deep to help fund research," Mr Aikman says.

"I check my JustGiving page every day. The donations and messages are a constant source of hope and support to me," he adds.

Two of the objectives on his five-point plan have now been met. Shortly after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met Mr Aikman in December, she pledged to begin funding the specialist nurses who care for MND patients in Scotland - previously they relied on charitable donations - and to double their number.

"Things are definitely progressing," says the campaigner. "At the same time, though, I'm making progress in terms of my condition. Things have got a lot more difficult. I'm using my wheelchair far more - the transition has been massive. I was a young, healthy guy until a year ago. I was going to the gym, lifting weights; now I can barely lift a cup of tea."

But Mr Aikman says that while it is too late for him, he hopes that his Fightback campaign will benefit future generations of people diagnosed with MND.

Roughly half of people with MND die within 14 months of diagnosis. Mr Aikman was diagnosed 12 months ago.

He believes he doesn't have much time left but says he is learning to accept this and to focus on the positives. "I've seen more of my friends and family than ever before, travelled more of the world than ever before and I got married," he says.

His partner, Joe, proposed in February and the pair tied the knot in March.

"There is no time to waste," Mr Aikman says. "I wanted to get married while I could still walk down the aisle and make the most of it. The wedding was amazing."

He knows he won't be around to enjoy his 10th - or perhaps even his first - wedding anniversary, but Mr Aikman is adamant that a diagnosis of MND should not mean a death sentence for patients in years to come.

"We've got to invest in research to find a cure," he says. "It is the single biggest gift we can give the next generation of people diagnosed with MND."

justgiving.com/gordonaikman

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