Woman diagnosed with MND launches fundraising drive for Doddie Weir charity

Nicola McFarlane, 47 from Dunblane, has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease - and is now fundraising for Doddie Weir. (Picture: Elaine Livingstone/PA Wire)Nicola McFarlane, 47 from Dunblane, has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease - and is now fundraising for Doddie Weir. (Picture: Elaine Livingstone/PA Wire)
Nicola McFarlane, 47 from Dunblane, has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease - and is now fundraising for Doddie Weir. (Picture: Elaine Livingstone/PA Wire) | Elaine Livingstone/PA Wire
Nicola McFarlane was diagnosed with cancer a decade ago - and is now contending with motor neurone disease.

A woman diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) a decade after fighting cancer is helping to launch the annual fundraising campaign for the charity named after Scotland rugby star Doddie Weir.

Nicola McFarlane, 47, from Dunblane, received the news that she had the terminal neurological illness in March, which she described as like “being hit by a train”. Ten years previously, Ms McFarlane underwent a double mastectomy to treat breast cancer.

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She met with rugby player Kenny Logan to launch the fourth year of the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation Doddie Aid. The mass participation virtual exercise event will see thousands of people across the UK and Ireland clock up miles during activities including walking, running, swimming and cycling to raise cash to fund research into MND.

In an interview with Logan, Ms McFarlane shared her feelings about being diagnosed as well as taking inspiration from Weir, who died last year after being diagnosed with MND in 2016. Weir dedicated the final years of his life to accelerating the search for a cure – which she said was a source of “incredible strength” at the most challenging time in her life.

“After my diagnosis I was in a very dark place, but thinking of Doddie helped lift me out of it, after everything he achieved he means so much to the MND community,” Ms McFarlane said. “I thought, ‘Doddie managed to set up a foundation and raise millions for MND research, the least I can do is get out of bed and crack on’.

“I think about him every day.”

Ms McFarlane is a lifelong equestrian enthusiast, a passion she shares with Doddie. She told Logan she noticed that her hands had “just stopped working” when they were cold and she felt like she had been drinking “too much coffee”.

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Initially putting her early symptoms down to menopause, she noticed twitching elsewhere in her body and suspected there was something much more serious.

“I’d already gone through the realisation of my mortality with my cancer, and whilst my cancer treatment was extreme, we caught it early enough and there was something that could be done about it,” Ms McFarlane said. “As things stand, that isn’t the case for MND. It’s a situation that’s very hard to accept and there is so much uncertainty around how the disease will affect you and how quickly, but as each day passes you will only get worse – that’s why I had to get back to living.

“I want to keep going for as long as possible. I need the money too – nobody gives you a big cheque when you get an MND diagnosis. I know that with every day that passes my condition will get worse.

“Something I learned from Doddie is to focus on what I can do, rather than what I can’t. I have good days and bad ones, but I never allow myself to have two bad days in a row.”

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There is presently no cure for the condition, which around 400 adults in Scotland live with, according to MND Scotland.

Doddie Aid – founded by Weir’s former teammate and Scotland captain Rob Wainwright in 2020 – has so far raised more than £4m for MND research, with more than 80,000 participants covering four million miles. Kicking off on January 1 next year, Doddie Aid is the foundation’s biggest fundraiser.

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