Fife widow cycling to raise awareness of condition which killed her husband

An East Neuk widow is cycling 1000 miles around Fife to raise awareness of the illness that killed her husband and funds for charity.

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 2:22 pm
Elizabeth and Ian, who died in 2014.

Elizabeth Birrell’s husband Ian died in 2014, following a five year battle with the neurological condition Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) – a neurological condition caused by the premature loss of nerve cells in certain parts of the brain.

It is believed that there are 4000 people living with PS in the UK, however, there is little awareness of the disease.

That is something Elizabeth, from Cellardyke, has spent the last few years trying to change.

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Through various fundraisers, she has raised more than £70,000 for the PSP Assocation – and her latest challenge is her biggest yet. The 73-year-old aims to cycle 1000 miles across the Kingdom, and has already cycled 880 miles at the time of writing.

Aiming to get out of the house more when Covid hit and lockdown started, Elizabeth began taking her bike out and soon thought of her latest fundraiser.

"I’ve gotten hooked,” she said. “It gets me out of the house and I like to get on the roads early before the maniacs are out.

"I started on April 29. I’m not spring chicken but I’m not old.”

Elizabeth has been cycling throughout the East Neuk, up to Kingsbarns, around to Largoward and then back around the coastline, mixing up her routes to keep the challenge fresh.

It is 11 years since her husband, Ian, was first diagnosed with PSP. He went to the doctor when he began slurring his speech, but was told to come back the next week.

However, he was rushed to hospital the next week after his speech continued to deteriorate. After tests it was discovered he had PSP.

"There’s still not a lot of awareness about PSP,” said Elizabeth.

"I want to raise awareness – it has been 11 years and people are still asking what it is.”

Ian donated his brain to science after his death, so more could be learned about the disease.

And, since his death, Elizabeth has continued to raise funds and awareness, doing coastal walks and hosting coffee mornings, all in a bid to make more known about PSP.

If you would like to learn more about the disease, visit – pspassociation.org.uk.