A PARTICK man who fears losing his voice because of Motor Neurone Disease has a message for fellow sufferer Fernando Ricksen – to “fight, fight, fight, all the way.”

The former Rangers star announced this week that a charity event at the end of the month will be his last public appearance.

““I still have the same hopes as when I got diagnosed – to be the first person to beat MND, but I’m realistic and know time is ticking away,” he told his fans, explaining that his fight would continue, but out of the limelight.

John Gilbertson was diagnosed with MND in 2017. The 65-year-old is sharing his story for MND Action Week, which runs until Sunday.

“I understand how hard it can be for Fernando, but he has the fantastic support of his loving family and friends which will give him some more comfort to fight it in his own way,” says John.

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“We all deal with ill health in different ways, for me it’s fight, fight, fight and don’t accept no for an answer. I wish Fernando all the best.”

MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. This may cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided. Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year Lucy Lintott is the youngest person in Scotland with the disease.

John, who worked in logistics for 40 years, first noticed something was wrong just after taking voluntary redundancy in 2013.

“I thought there was something wrong with my knee and ankle, so that was the beginning of the testing,” he says. “I started at the physio but they soon referred me to a neurologist. I wasn’t diagnosed until 2017 because I have a slower progressing form of the disease.

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“It’s like finding a fault with a car – you go for the most obvious things first and then rule them out. I think the doctor knew a while before he told me but four years was a long journey.”

John adds: “I’m very positive and upbeat and I took the news quite well. Within a month I’d accepted what had happened and decided not to let it get to me.

“Some people take the news badly, but I thought – okay you have this, there’s nothing that you can do. Don’t let it get you down. I’m going to keep living my life as normally as possible, for as long as possible.”

John has been involved with Partick Community Council as Chairperson for around seven years; he is also on the board of Partick Works Limited, a subsidiary of Partick Housing Association, and enjoys voluntary work in his community.

“I loved my job as a logistics manager but after taking voluntary redundancy I decided not to go back to work,” he explains. “My symptoms had started and I thought it was time to take a step back and wind down. Health comes first.

“I like to keep active - I can’t imagine sitting here all day watching day time television, as that would be a backwards step for me.

“You have to be positive because you just don’t know what’s around the corner.”

Although John is positive and upbeat, his one fear is losing his voice to MND.

“I think I can probably cope with the rest, in some kind of way, but I’m worried about my voice,” he explains.

“My voice is a big part of my life – I used to do hospital radio and I loved it.”

John and Diane, his partner of 14 years, love going on holidays together.

“Last year we went on a cruise to the new Panama Canal – that had been on my bucket list since I watched its construction,” he smiles.

“We have another one planned for this year, from Vancouver to Honolulu this year. It does take me a few weeks to recover from trips as my energy gets really low towards the end – but I still want to do what I can - life is to be enjoyed.”

For MND Action Week 2019, charity MND Scotland is calling on people to imagine what it would be like to have the disease and to take action to help end it forever.

CEO Craig Stockton explains: “Can you imagine not being able to reach out and hug the ones you love? Or read your little one a bedtime story? “MND robs people of some of the most precious moments in life. It is unimaginable - but it’s going to take more than imagination to find a cure.”

For John, some days are harder than others.

“You get down, but you give yourself a shake and carry on,” he says. “MND isn’t getting me without a fight, that’s for sure.”

Read more of today's top Glasgow stories.

To donate £3 to MND Scotland text IMAGINE to 70660 or visit www.mndscotland.org.uk/imagine.”