Woman’s shock at MND diagnosis following years of dancing

Natalie Rushton from East Kilbride initially thought her symptoms were dancing injuries.

By Victoria Pease & Louise Scott

A young woman who had danced from the age of two has spoken of her shock after being diagnosed with MND at just 21. 

Natalie Rushton from East Kilbride was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease five months ago, and initially thought her symptoms were injuries caused by years of dancing. 

“I just thought of people dying and that it was only for older people. I never thought younger people would have it. I was in shock to be honest,” Natalie explained.

MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. 

This can cause sufferers to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided and there is no cure or effective treatment.

“What they said was it wasn’t a strain I was going to die of yet, it’s progressive muscular atrophy. My muscles are basically wasting away and at the moment it’s just confined to my legs,” Natalie said.

“They now say obviously it can reclassify if it starts spreading through the body.”

Natalie with mum Gillian, who has been a huge support since her diagnosis.Email

Natalie found her diagnosis extremely difficult, and decided to keep the news strictly to close friends and family. 

She was forced to call her father who lives in Aberdeen to tell him the news, unable to see him in person due to lockdown restrictions. 

“For about two or three weeks I was very disengaged, not really talking. It wasn’t until about three weeks before it properly sank in with me when I did all the research.

“I didn’t stop crying for about two days.”

Natalie walks with crutches but now needs a wheelchair for any longer trips. 

Despite her diagnosis, she has gone on to raise more than £2000 for MND Scotland to help fund vital research. 

Natalie took part in a fun run to help raise more than £2000 for MND Scotland. Email

“There are days when I think I hope there is a cure one day, because even if it stops it just from progressing, it would make my life easier as well,” she said.

“I think, will I have leg use in six months time or is it just going to be five years time, because I just don’t know.”

Iain McWhirter, MND Scotland’s interim chief executive, has thanked Natalie for sharing her story ahead of the charity’s 40th anniversary on June 23. 

“It’s important to remember that MND isn’t rare, with a lifetime risk being one in 300,” he said.

“That’s why during our 40th anniversary we’re appealing to the public to help us to fund even more research, so that we can find a cure much, much quicker.”

Natalie said that while she is scared of what the future will bring, she is determined to stay positive. 

“It’s scary to think that eventually my legs are going to go but at the same time, I know my legs are going to go eventually one day, so at the moment I’m just taking every day as it comes,” she said.

“I’ve been given this card so I’m just trying to make the most of life basically.”

To donate to MND Scotland, click here.

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