A terminally ill mum said she feels blessed to be able to spend Christmas with her children – despite knowing it’s her last.
Jennifer Bell, 28, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in March after she began noticing problems with her speech.
Tragically, she was given just nine months to live.
But the single mum said it’s a miracle she’ll still be here for Christmas, which she is spending with daughters Georgia, aged eight, and Kacey, aged one.
Jennifer, from Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, said: “Christmas is just around the corner and the fact I’ll be here is a miracle to me.
“I feel blessed.
“We are having a big family dinner for Christmas so we are very excited.
“I just feel at peace, happy and content that I’m so well and getting to cherish a very special day with my girls and all my family.”
Jennifer was in her third year studying for a degree in learning disability nursing when she began to notice problems with her speech.
She was initially told by doctors it was hormones from her second pregnancy with daughter Kacey.
But as she neared the end of her final year of university, she was diagnosed with MND.
Jennifer said: “Since being diagnosed my speech is my main symptom which is slowly but surely deteriorating, I also find it hard to chew food.
“All my symptoms are to do with bulbar muscles in my mouth and throat.
“Physically my arms and legs are fine and there’s nothing I can’t do now that I could before apart from talk, and I’ve had to adjust my diet to soft foods.
“I find my strength from my two girls.
“They are my world and everyday I have seeing them growing up, laughing, telling me they love me, I know they need me.
“I’ll fight with every breath in my body to be here looking after them for as long as I possibly can.
“And although it’s an awful situation I’m also very lucky in so many ways.
“I’ve brought two beautiful children into the world, I’ve almost completed my bucket list, I’ve achieved a university degree, I’ve had the opportunity to do so many things some people never get to do in life and it’s made me into a stronger person.
“I won’t ever lie down to this disease I’ll fight it with everything I’ve got.
“At the moment I feel very happy.
“When I was first diagnosed I didn’t know if I would see my daughter’s first birthday, which I have done.
“She’s now walking and almost talking.
“I didn’t think I would see my oldest daughter in her dance competition which I did, and she came first.”
Despite being told by medics she would only have a matter of months to live, Jennifer is determined to fight on.
She said: “They have said ‘we aren’t talking years, we are talking months’ but I think I might just prove them wrong.
“My oldest daughter has a good grasp of what’s going on and we are making special memories everyday.
“She goes to Marie Curie weekly for counselling and is making a book of my life which she finds hilarious.
“She speaks openly about it and I’ve told her it’s OK to talk about it and it’s OK to be sad sometimes, but it’s definitely helping her instead of her bottling things up.
“Sometimes she will ask ‘Mummy when are you going to heaven?’ and I just say to her ‘nobody knows when God will take us so we have to be happy and make special memories everyday’.
“I explain to her that we are all going to the same place one day and everyone will be together again.
“Realistically this will be my last Christmas as bulbar MND prognosis isn’t great but I pray for a miracle every day and there are clinical trials starting soon.
“The hardest thing about MND for me is my speech – not being able to sing my baby girl a song breaks my heart.
“Publicly I look fine so when I speak I feel embarrassed because people are so ignorant and hardly anyone knows about MND, so they look at me like ‘what is wrong with her?’.
“People speak to me like I’m deaf or as if I don’t understand them, which is very insulting considering I’ve just graduated from university and there is nothing wrong other than my speech.
“Everyone assumes MND is for older people, or pay no attention because it doesn’t affect them.
“More and more people are getting it younger, there was a “profile” it was men athletic over 60, but now it’s nothing like that.
“I had a charity night on the 29th of November for MND Scotland which raised £15,851.”