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One step at a time for Invergordon dad living with MS

Neil McLeod with his mother, Alda.
Neil McLeod with his mother, Alda.

Most people would feel rather tired having trekked six miles across bumpy terrain, but Neil McLeod is not most people.

Indeed he has been proving medical professionals wrong for more than 20 years, and has never given up on his quest to lead as normal a life as possible.

From becoming a proud father to battling multiple sclerosis (MS) and mental health issues, the 43-year-old, who lives in Invergordon, has no plans to slow down.

And Neil has now raised hundreds of pounds for a charity close to his heart, after taken part in The Kiltwalk earlier this year.

Pounding the pavements to raise cash may be nothing new, but it is a remarkable feat for Neil – who was previously warned that the condition would leave him unable to walk.

He was only 26 when he was diagnosed with MS, a lifelong condition which affects the brain and nerves.

Neil prior to his MS diagnosis.

Although there is currently no cure, Neil has never given up hope that he will prove the world of medicine wrong and beat the condition once and for all.

MS can impact his speech, and he spoke to Your Life magazine with the help of his mother, Alda.

Neil with his mother and biggest supporter, Alda.

The pair clearly share an incredible bond, with Alda taking evident pride in Neil’s many achievements.

“I was 26 when I was diagnosed, I had been experiencing vague symptoms,” he said.

“I was tripping over a lot and I felt really tired. Then I went completely off my legs.”

Doctors feared that Neil had a brain tumour, until tests revealed that it was in fact MS.

“I didn’t know a thing about MS, and life turned on its head,” said Neil.

“I had lots of nasty symptoms such as double vision, but everything started to make sense.

I had been struggling to get out of bed in the morning, and was told I was just lazy

“Or if I fell over, it was because I was clumsy. Those were the kind of things thrown at me.

“It was actually a relief to find out that there was a reason behind it all.”

Although 26 is the average age of diagnosis, 70% of sufferers are female.

“MS isn’t just a physical battle, it’s a mental battle as well,” said Neil.

“Sometimes I do feel grumpy and I just want to hide myself away.

“But I am very lucky, I have the best friends in the world. They have always been fantastic.”

Neil is determined to beat the condition.

Following the diagnosis, Neil’s mobility gradually returned.

He wasn’t going to let the occasion go unmarked, but didn’t expect an outpouring of support.

“When I got back on my legs, I had a party,” said Neil.

“I think 50 people were invited, but around 200 people turned up. It was a way of showing that I was still the same old Neil.”

Neil has gone on to have a daughter, Lauren, who is now 15. He believes she has always been accepting of his condition.

“She’s my absolute world; she has never known me without MS,” said Neil.

“It has never been a problem to her, she has a tremendous understanding.”

Neil was warned that roughly around five years post diagnosis, he would be unable to walk.

Neil recently completed a charity walk.

Although each relapse has taken its toll, he is still putting one foot in front of the other.

“Relapse feels like complete and utter shutdown,” said Neil.

“The only way back is via a massive dose of steroids, with an admission to hospital.

“A relapse always takes something away. So my mobility, for example, may be slightly worse than before.

“Medication doesn’t do anything for the symptoms, it just works to stop the relapse.”

Neil has been a “guinea-pig” for treatments over the years, but unfortunately developed a malignant melanoma as a side effect of one treatment.

He has also felt the benefits of The Oxygen Works in Inverness, and the charity offers oxygen therapy to people living with a wide range of conditions.

“The oxygen chamber really helps me with my speech, because MS can make me sound like I’m drunk,” said Neil.

“Sometimes I’m even too tired to leave the house, but The Oxygen Works always gives me a boost.”

A boost indeed, for Neil walked up Fyrish Monument in Evanton near Alness, and raised more than £2,000 for the charity.

When I saw my mum waiting there for me at the end, I had tears running down my face and all my friends were hugging me,” said Neil.

“When you are diagnosed with MS, it can feel like your life is over.

“But I managed to achieve something that I haven’t done in a long time, and I still believe I will beat MS.

“Four of my friends helped me along on the walk, and I can’t say thank you to them enough.

“I feel proud of myself, I really do.”