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International Women's Day - Introducing Ang Armstrong

08 March 2024

This IWD we’re celebrating Ang Armstrong. Ang is many things: mother, wife, netball coach, tennis player, peer supporter, MND campaigner and a member of the My Name5 Doddie Foundation’s Research Review Committee and Early Diagnosis Workshop. 

It was Christmas of 2019 that Ang’s husband David started telling her some things he didn’t feel were quite right. A fit and healthy 54-year-old who wasn’t a regular at the doctor presented with concerns over weakness in his left hand.

As the symptoms of muscle stiffness developed, David had appointments with sports therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists and even gave up coffee. That’s when Ang knew something was wrong, David loved coffee.  

The 56-year-old mum of two described how receiving the news of her husband’s diagnosis just a year after her Dad and best friend passed away in close succession was ‘devastating but not a complete shock after watching his symptoms progress’. Coming to terms with the harsh reality that there isn’t currently a cure for MND was one of the hardest things to comprehend.

Ang comments: “I could see David was getting stiffer and was starting to walk with difficulty. Of course, all I did was google and the results showed he potentially had MND. I kept thinking it can’t be, but by June/July of 2019 I’d warned my children, Callum and Lucy, that I think their Dad had what Doddie Weir had. Lucy had fundraised in 2019 for the Foundation as part of her rugby tour with the girls from school.

“Living with someone who has MND means every day is different. You have to be so innovative. You don’t want to rush to do up someone’s buttons when they are still able to do it themselves, because tomorrow they might not be able to at all. You’re constantly adapting to the way they need to live while being conscious of the fact you want them to be as independent as possible.”

Ang was invited to join the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation’s Research Review Committee in April 2023 after doing some local fundraising with her family following her husband’s diagnosis. 

She added: “I don’t have a scientific background, but I spent a lot of time waking up at two in the morning googling possibilities; looking for anything that could make a difference. My career has been in executive recruitment, HR, marketing and business operations. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades really. I thought there must be a few ways I could help.

“Taking part in the Research Review Committee and Early Diagnoses workshops alongside some of the best academic minds around, and others affected by this horrible disease, has been incredible. I’m humbled that these researchers and scientists have dedicated their career to help find a cure.”

The Foundation actively works with a number of primary care practitioners, academics and people affected by MND to shorten the worrying cycle of how long it takes to get a diagnosis, and Ang’s role involves bringing practical and real life perspective to the table. 

Ang’s husband David passed away from MND in November 2022. Diagnosed in August 2021, a week after his 55th birthday, he lived for 14 months from diagnosis. 

During his last few months Ang was receiving peer support from a research project run by Kings College London but soon found herself on the other end of the service. 

“Sadly David died right in the middle of my 12-week peer support programme, so I didn’t get the chance to properly go through that process, it was just the wrong time. A short while after, the organisers got in touch to ask if I would be interested in supporting others. Knowing how scary living with and supporting someone with MND is, I knew I had to help others who might find themselves in the difficult situation of navigating the daily evolving landscape of MND”. 

“The role has given me such a sense of purpose; I’m the type of person that needs to be helping. Between making sure my kids are where they need to be both emotionally and physically and dealing with not just grief but the loss of looking after someone who needed 24/7 support, helping others in a similar situation has hopefully benefited both parties.The role also offers regular opportunities to talk about him, which is so important.

The mum of two talks about “grieving for what life could have been”.

“David was about to retire, and I was meant to retire shortly after. Both of my children also left home at the same time as he died; Callum went back to University and Lucy back to work as a chef in Glasgow. I went from picking one up here, to dropping the other one off wherever they needed to be, and then everything changed. It’s the ‘new normal’ now, learning to live without him and what might have been.

Ang talks about how the experience - while devastating - has brought her new opportunities. 

“It goes without saying I’d do anything to have David back, and while we may not have had any hope at the time of his diagnosis, I’m grateful to have found a new purpose and opportunities through being part of the MND community. 

“Following a speech I delivered at the V&A for the Foundation in November and having a chance conversation with (what I hadn’t clocked at the time) one of Alan Sugar’s interviewers on the Apprentice, I was introduced to the Scottish Brain Sciences team where I now work part time. SBS works on clinical trials for drugs to help those affected by Altzheimers and Dementia - maybe one day that can translate to other neurological conditions.

“It’s research that will make the difference - whether it’s extending life expectancy following diagnosis or one day hopefully finding a cure. I’ve got my own theories on how David’s journey went, and I’m definitely in this for the long haul. I’d love to be here when effective treatments can be found or even better a cure. 

“I’m doing it for Dave and Doddie, but most of all for people who will have treatment options in the future so they can live with MND and not die from it. I genuinely believe one day we will find a cure.” 

International Women's Day - Introducing Ang Armstrong
International Women's Day - Introducing Ang Armstrong
Ang pictured with her children having become a Doddie Champion in 2023
Ang pictured with her children having become a Doddie Champion in 2023
Ang with her daughter Lucy
Ang with her daughter Lucy

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