FORMER Richmond cafe owner Cath Muir has lifted her charity earnings beyond £60,000 during the six years she has been battling Motor Neurone Disease.

The annual dinner/dance she organises, with the help of husband Ian, at the village hall near their Eppleby home raised £3,800.

“Things are getting harder, but I have to keep busy,” said Cath. “I was recently fitted with a feeding bag but I don’t need it yet. I’ll be 60 this year and we’re planning a big celebration, but I want to be here for my 70th.”

Around 50 per cent of MND victims die within two years of being diagnosed, as was the case with Barnard Castle resident Graham Kitching, whose family were among the 140 who enjoyed Cath’s three-course meal, enlivened by a 1920s dress theme.

He was a stalwart supporter of Barnard Castle Rugby Club, who were strongly represented at Cath’s annual six-mile charity walk last September.

“The walk raised £10,000 and the six dinner/dances we have now done have totalled £20,000,”she said. “The rest has come from family and friends and other charity events I’ve done. I was pushed round the Great North Run in my wheelchair by my sons, James and David.

“Half of the money from the dinners goes to the MND unit at James Cook Hospital and half to the Butterwick Hospice, where they run a first contact group for sufferers every Friday. It helps just to talk to each other, but they also provide things like massages and aromatherapy.

“I get a lot of support from them, so it’s good to give something back.

“From the other money we raise 50 per cent goes to the Motor Neurone Disease Association nationally and the rest to local groups.”

The Doddie Weir Foundation, started when the former Newcastle and Scotland rugby player contracted the illness, funded the launch of an MND Smart Trial, which began in Edinburgh and has now gone national.

“I’m registered on that,” said Cath. “There is more confidence now that the research is making progress in terms of treatment, but there is no cure.”

She ran the Cross View Tearooms in Richmond Market Place from 2003 and was in there at 7am the day after her devastating diagnosis. She had to give it up in 2016, but has since operated a two-course takeaway meal service once a week from her garage, which was converted into a kitchen with working areas at wheelchair height.

“I couldn’t do it without Ian’s help. He’s my arms and legs,” she said. “I cooked all day Friday before the dinner/dance, and Ian did all the fetching and carrying.”

Available via Facebook, under Make and Bake Eppleby, it has proved very popular with around 50 orders a week.