A MOTHER from Worcester has said she is determined to ‘live life to the full’ after finding out she will develop a terminal disease that stops parts of the brain working properly.

31-year-old Hannah Stockford has been diagnosed with possessing the ‘faulty’ gene that leads to Huntington’s disease, which causes changes in the central area of the brain.

The condition is inherited from a person’s parents, and Hannah’s mother started to show symptoms of the condition when she was 55.

“To diagnose the disease they look at DNA and look at repeats in the gene through a blood test,” said Hannah.

“Most people should only have about 17 gene repeats, but somebody who develops the disease has upwards of 17, and I actually have 42, which means I definitely will get the disease at some point in my life.”

Hannah, who lives with her husband Matthew and two-year-old daughter Julia in Worcester, was diagnosed with the gene in December 2020, but is currently asymptomatic - the symptoms usually develop between ages 30 and 50, but can begin earlier or much later in life.

She said: “The support I’ve received from my family has been amazing. I’ve not had the diagnosis for long, so you feel fine about it one minute and then you don’t the next, but I’m coming around to the fact that everybody dies at some point and you just have to live your life to the absolute best that you can, and just be positive and I’m determined to live life to the full.”

The condition deteriorates over time and is usually fatal after a period of between 15 and 20 years from the onset of symptoms.

“You don’t know when it will develop, so my mum started developing symptoms at 55, but because we didn’t know it was in the family, she didn’t get diagnosed with it until she was 59. The first symptoms are usually mental so some people might become aggressive or have big personality changes, or not be able to comprehend things.

“Then usually there are jerking movements, known as Chorea – which is a bit like Parkinsons. The muscle movement deteriorates, but it can be helped with drugs and my mum is much better for it.

“Everyone is affected differently with the disease, and it’s not technically the Huntington’s that kills the person; it’s the complications, because all of the muscles go, so eventually you can’t swallow and that can cause pneumonia from damaged lungs.”

Hannah works for a charity in Malvern, and is now fundraising for the Huntington’s Disease Association (HDA) by walking 8,000 steps every day this month.

For more about Hannah’s fundraiser or to donate, visit hda.enthuse.com/pf/hannah-stockford