DESPITE being diagnosed with a debilitating and terminal illness, it hasn’t stopped Jackie Higginson from learning new skills, raising a family and telling the Prime Minister how his budget should be spent.

The mum-of-four was diagnosed with motor neurone disease six years ago during a very difficult time in her life.

Her twin brother and dad died within a year of each other, then the 48-year-old, from South Ockendon, was told she only had between two and five years left to live.

“It was really numbing after everything everything we had been through with my brother and dad. I was grieving for them and then for myself,” she said.

“To be told you have this disease and only have two to five years left was devastating.”

At first Jackie carried on working at Tesco and didn’t tell her children she was ill.

But when she was no longer able to work and had to give up hobbies including football, judo and rugby, she had to own up.

But now she is vowing to not let her illness stop her children achieving their dreams.

She added: “I want them to have their life. That would be the worst thing for me, if they didn’t do something because of me.”

Jackie felt it was important to give her family the facts before they picked up any information or preconceptions that were wrong about her illness.

MND is a progressive condition that damages the nervous system, leaving muscles wasted and weak.

To ease some of her symptoms and gain access to services and alternative therapies, Jackie has been going to St Luke’s Hospice, in Basildon, for the last four years.

But at first she didn’t want to go, thinking it would be “full of sick people” and it wouldn’t help her.

She said: “I got the impression it was just for people with terminal illnesses, but it’s for people with debilitating diseases as well.

“They have put me back together again. When I first went there I was in a lot of pain, I got a lot of cramping and stiffness and I was in an emotional state too.

“It’s a place of joy, fun and laughter, you have bad days, but you’re with like-minded people who understand where you are coming from.” Staff at the hospice even helped her plan her wedding to husband Ray, 59, four years ago.

During a stay at the University College Hospital, in London, last year, Jackie came face to face with Prime Minister David Cameron.

She admitted she “got on her soapbox” and told him what she thought about his proposed NHS reforms.

She said: “I told him without St Luke’s I would be like a boat sailing along on my own without the equipment I needed.

“It’s frustrating to think it is struggling for money – with St Luke’s things get done quicker than with the NHS.

“The hospice needs to be included in the Government’s big pot of money, its opinion is important. “It’s at the grass roots of where problems are and staff have an understanding of solutions.”