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Gran's plans for Kilimanjaro trek

PUBLISHED: 12:31 16 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:53 02 July 2010

Joan Speake

Joan Speake

Sam Emanuel

Most people half her age would find the climb of more than 4,500m incredibly difficult, but 70-year-old Joan Speake is not letting age hold her back and will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for a cause close to her heart.

Most people half her age would find the climb of more than 4,500m incredibly difficult, but 70-year-old Joan Speake is not letting age hold her back and will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for a cause close to her heart.

The grandmother-of-five, who keeps fit and healthy by playing tennis, squash, swimming and going to the gym, hopes to raise £3,500 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Mrs Speake is passionate about the charity because a school friend of her son's, who is only in her 40s, suffers from Motor Neurone Disease (MND), and as a former staff nurse at the West Norwich Hospital and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, she has witnessed the horror of the degenerative disease first hand.

She said: “I think Motor Neurone Disease is one of the cruellest conditions because it attacks the nervous system and leaves people unable to walk, talk, or feed themselves, sometimes unable to move any part of their body.

“It has been described as a healthy and alert mind held prisoner inside a body which cannot move but can still think and feel. I see this awful disease at first hand, but in spite of it all, my friend still manages a beautiful smile.

“Fifteen years ago I trekked to the Everest Base Camp for medical research, and in 2000 I returned to the Himalayas to raise funds for another charity. But I think this will be a lot harder because the climb will be steeper - I am expecting it to be very tough indeed.

“I think we will be camping or staying in dormitories during the trek, and I understand the temperature can vary from about -30 degrees centigrade to +30 degrees centigrade, which will be very difficult.”

The Motor Neurone Disease Association provides care and support for people with MND and for their carers. It also funds research into the causes, treatment and cures, and relies on voluntary donations.

Anyone able to sponsor Mrs Speake, even for a small amount of money, should either donate online at www.justgiving.com/joan-speake or send a cheque made payable to the Motor Neurone Disease Association to 11 Birchwood, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, NR7 0RL by the end of September.

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