A Tribute to Liz Shipley
“A fine Lady who defied MND with gusto, leaving us mere mortals in her dust.”
Liz Shipley never suffered from MND. She lived with it. That was her motto: “I don’t suffer from MND – I’m living with MND.”
And more than that. She lived with a zest. She challenged MND all the way.
But then, what else would you expect from a gal with a passion for Harley Davidson motorbikes?
Liz was already married with two young children when she was told that the mysterious ailment that had killed several blood relatives was MND, that it was hereditary and that she carried the defective gene. She was diagnosed with the disease in 1997.
She was a fighter, not a quitter and her response was to throw herself into the fight against MND.
Over the years since her first contact with the Association in 1998 Liz worked to help other people with the disease. She did this by very successful fundraising, by spreading awareness and understanding of the disease and by supporting the Association. Perhaps most importantly, Liz became an Association Visitor, giving moral support, advice and encouragement to other people with the disease. She did this by meeting them, emailing with them or by chatting with them on the telephone.
All this as well as rearing two children, giving them the best childhood she could and hoping against hope that she would survive till they reached maturity.
In 2004 she abseiled from the high roof of the Malmaison Hotel that towers above Newcastle Quayside. She already needed a stick to help her when walking and had to be half-lifted over the roof-edge railings in order to get in position for the descent. For those watching it was a heart-stopping moment.
Starting in 2006, each year Liz did the Great North Run, pushed in her wheelchair by a team of firemen from Hebburn Fire Station.
Her health was declining year by year and by the time of the Run in 2009 she was desperately ill. Yet she still insisted on doing it.
It was her last Great North Run. She died less than 3 weeks later.
Hilary Shaw, who was the Association’s Regional Care Adviser during much of this time, writes:
“Liz was extremely independent and always knew exactly what she wanted in terms of support. Challenges with getting appropriate and timely help from statutory services were met with a steely determination, but she was the most generous and selfless person, and above all, fun and full of spirit. Her twin passions of Harley Davidson bikes and Cliff Richard were just two elements of her full life.
“Several times she came to speak to nursing students studying at Northumbria University, and at other teaching events, and her frank personal perspective on the disease was by far the most memorable part of the day. There was never any question that was too personal or challenging for her to answer.”
Tony Holden, himself with MND, writes of her:
“I was always impressed by how she made light of how she was and was more interested in how I was coping, even though she was much worse than me.
“I would never have courage to come down that abseil, but when she reached the ground she just wanted to do it again. Truly inspirational.
“Chatting at Great North Runs she made light of falls around the house since we had last chatted and again was genuinely interested what I had been up to lately.
“On more personal matter she was encouraging me to go ahead with a getting dental palette to maybe improve my speech. As you can guess she had been there and done it, mildly rebuking me with a twinkle in her eye for dithering.
“In her Association Visitor role she would take her fold up battery wheel chair over countryside the manufacturer would never have dreamt off. I learnt this from a discussion on how small wheels dig in on rough surfaces with Liz saying “I can’t walk so I just go whatever the surface.
“There you have it: a fine Lady who defied MND with gusto, leaving us mere mortals in her dust.”
Liz with Kirstine Knox, Chief Executive of the MND Association, at the Great North Run in 2007