A WELL-KNOWN North-east freelance photographer who has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease today said he’s determined to make the best of what life he has left.
Donald Stewart, 61, has been forced to give up working at Aberdeen FC’s games at Pittodrie, something he’s done for more than four decades, starting as a photographer with Aberdeen Journals in 1974.
There has been no hint of self pity from Donald, who lives in Fordoun with Doreen, his wife of nearly 40 years, and he has instead chosen to do all he can to raise awareness about the condition, including raising £1,750 through a bucket collection at the Dons v FC Kairat Almaty Europa League tie at Pittodrie.
Donald also plans to release a book of his best images – his vast portfolio includes the Royal Family and film stars, as well as the Dons – with the proceeds going towards the Edinburgh-based Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research.
Donald said: “I know the disease will eventually get the better of me, but I want to keep going for as long as my body will allow.
“And if that means I can do something to help the Euan MacDonald Centre, all the better.”
Donald found it hard to give up Dons games.
His last was keeper Jamie Langfield’s testimonial match against Brighton last month.
But, with the help of dedicated Doreen, he is still working and was up at Balmoral this week photographing the Royal Family.
Donald said: “I certainly wouldn’t manage without Doreen’s assistance.
“I get tired easily too, but I’m not the sort to just sit at home and feel sorry for myself.
“Photography has been my life and as long as I can still pick up a camera I will be out there doing the best job I can.”
Donald first became aware he had a problem while working at the Dons v Dundee United league game in August of last year.
He explained: “I was walking along the touchline after the match when my legs just went.
“I landed on top of my photography gear and had to receive treatment from the club doctor for injured ribs.”
Donald was later seen by a specialist in April, who confirmed he had contracted Motor Neurone Disease. The condition progressively damages parts of the nervous system.
Donald said: “It was devastating news to get.
“My father died of it in 1986, so I know the sort of problems I’m likely to face in the future.
“I was reassured the disease isn’t hereditary, so it looks as if I have just been really unlucky.”
Donald and Doreen have been supported by kids, Duncan, Callum and Victoria, who works as a photographer with a national newspaper. She and partner, Gary, have a son, Angus.
Donald admits he’s been touched by the support received from friends, colleagues and strangers since he went public with the news of his illness.
The amount of money raised at Pittodrie was a record, and Donald appreciates it.
He said: “The response from almost everyone else I know has also been overwhelming.”