ICING A CAKE: Cath Muir, from Eppleby, is nothing short of an inspiration, says an MP
ICING A CAKE: Cath Muir, from Eppleby, is nothing short of an inspiration, says an MP

THE efforts of a former cafe proprietor to combat motor neurone disease have been described as “inspirational”.

Cath Muir had to sell Cross View Cafe, in Richmond, when it became clear she would soon no longer be able to stand, but now prepares meals for sale from her wheelchair at her Eppleby home.

With help from her husband of 36 years, Ian, she also organises events to raise funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) and the latest, a six-mile walk around Eppleby, was attended by Rishi Sunak, Richmond MP. 

Prior to waving off about 100 walkers, the MP said: “I wanted to be here because this is a cause which is very dear to me. To see everything that Cath achieves is positively inspirational.”

Sue Snowdon, the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, completed the walk and stayed for the afternoon tea served in Eppleby village hall afterwards. Also taking part was Hilary Maddren, who took the photographs in her role with the Richmond and Hambleton branch of the MNDA. She was married to former Middlesbrough footballer Willie Maddren, who died from the disease 18 years ago. Cath had also taken part in the London Night Rider, a 60-mile tandem ride with her sister, Ruth Thompson, and the Great North Run, when she was pushed by her sons, James and David.

“Between the three events we hope to raise £5,000,” she said. “I was inspired to arrange the walk after hearing about a walk the rugby player Doddie Weir was involved in after he was diagnosed last year.”

She also takes inspiration from the fact that scientist Stephen Hawking was able to achieve great things while surviving with MND for 55 years after originally being given two years to live.

More than half of sufferers die within two years of diagnosis, but Cath keeps busy six years after she became aware that all was not well at the age of 52.

Originally a farmer’s daughter from Ugthorpe, near Whitby, sitting still was not in her nature and she went to work in her cafe at 7am the day after being diagnosed.

“We had the cafe for 13 years but had to give up two years ago. It’s very frustrating but life is as good as I could hope. Ian is brilliant and I get lots of other support from family and friends.

“I just want to live. I go once a week to the Pop-Up Gym in Gateshead, which was set up for people with disabilities by an ex-athlete who broke his neck. The exercise won’t stop my muscle wastage but it does me a lot of good mentally.

“There’s no single cause of the illness. Some of the money we raise will go towards research, but in the UK there’s still only one approved drug and it has limited effect.

“I’m lucky in that my illness has progressed slowly, but I’m now at the stage where I’m halfway through ‘voice banking’. I have to record 1,600 phrases for when I can no longer speak.”

After giving up the cafe Cath and Ian had their garage converted into a kitchen with everything at wheelchair height and she prepares two-course meals for collection every Thursday.

“I vary the menu every week. This time it’s beef casserole and dumplings plus apple and blackberry sponge. It's going well, but I wouldn't mind doing a few more. I can do a maximum of 50 a week.”

Make and Bake Eppleby is available on Facebook, where customers can place orders after Cath posts the menu on Monday.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the MNDA can do so on www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cathmuirmnd.