A Sutton pensioner who defied doctors after he was diagnosed with a fatal and debilitating disease is taking on a huge challenge for charity.

Colin de’Ath was told he had the terminal illness motor neurone disease (MND) in 1978 when he was around 37 years old.

While a third of people die within a year of their diagnosis, and half within two years, he is still alive today – more than four decades later – at the age of 79.

But now Mr de’Ath is aiming to raise £4,000 by attempting to complete a 100km charity walk by trekking the famous Camino de Santiago terrain, in Spain, across nine days.

“I saw people who were going through a similar experience to myself, so I wanted to get out there,” he said.

“In those years trained AVs [association visitors] didn’t exist, so I went to the library to find out more information about how to support people and I learnt on the job.

“I find it’s really rewarding helping others. Everyone has parts of their life that are difficult, it’s just how we overcome them that counts.”

After Mr de’Ath was told he had MND he chose to reach out to people, becoming part of the group which founded the MND Association that year.

He volunteered as an AV and offered support to those who have the fatal, rapidly progressing disease, and their families.

The 79-year-old’s condition is a very slow progressing form, explaining why he defied the initial prognosis more than 40 years ago.

But now, to mark the MND Association’s 40th anniversary this year, he’s decided to fundraise for its East Surrey branch after having been inspired by those he has met.

And after he goes on the walk, which his wife Mary and two lifelong friends will join, he’ll be off to complete the Vitality 10k event in London as well.

That will be alongside his two sons, son-in-law and grandson.

“Despite a couple setbacks in my training I have been out walking most days,” Mr de’Ath added. “It’s important for me to stay active, and do this whilst I still can as I might not be able to do it all again when the association is 50.”

MND is a group of diseases which affect the nerves – or motor neurones – in both the brain and the spinal cord which tell your muscles what to do.

As messages to these muscles gradually stop getting there the muscles begin to “weaken, stiffen and waste”, according to the MND Association.

It’s a fatal illness – killing a third of people within a year of their diagnosis and half of those affected within two years.

There is currently no known cure.

Colin will be taking on the 100km charity walk this Sunday (April 21).

You can see his JustGiving page here.