SHE is well-known for her bright pink hair, but a brave Basingstoke mum is set to have her trademark locks shaved off to raise money for life-changing equipment.

Esther Camp was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) 11 years ago, but her speech has become significantly worse over the last 12 months. The 39-year-old now struggles to communicate with her friends and family and needs round-the-clock care.

MND is a progressive disease that attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in muscle weakness and wasting. The cause of MND is unknown and there is no known cure.

In Esther’s case, the muscles in her arms have been severely affected and she now relies on assistance or a wheelchair to move around.

When Esther, from Warwick Road, Winklebury, was diagnosed aged 28, she was told the maximum life expectancy for someone with MND was five years. She said: “I was devastated. All I could think of was not being there for my son Josh. I then watched everybody around me fall apart, had a good hard word with myself, and decided MND wasn’t going to ruin my life and I wasn’t going to waste whatever time I had left.”

The determined mother-of-one has defied the odds and she is still battling against the illness as she approaches her milestone 40th birthday on July 16. On that day, Esther will have her hair shaved to raise funds towards equipment which could considerably change her life.

The Tobii I-15 costs £12,850 and is a speech generating device which would allow Esther to communicate using a computer screen which is controlled by her eye movement. But the equipment is not available through the NHS and the only way Esther can have one is to raise the funds herself.

She said: “My diaphragm, tongue and mouth muscles are weakening. This makes breathing and talking very difficult. My speech is slurred and the volume of my voice is very low.

“When I’m out in town, at a supermarket, social events or any noisy environment, I cannot be heard even by people who know me well.

“Eventually, I will be unable to talk at all and I will need this device to communicate with my family, relay my everyday needs to my carers, and also enable me to interact socially.”

She added: “The new equipment will allow me to communicate with people myself when out. People tend to see a wheelchair and assume you can’t hear or understand, and talk either slow and loud or to whoever I’m with – it’s quite degrading sometimes.

“It will be lovely to join in conversations instead of just nodding and smiling. I will regain my personality.”

Esther, who used to work as a supervisor in Boots Opticians, has always been determined to live her life to the full, and hopes the new equipment will help her to write a book. She said: “It’s about using what-ever time I have got left. If I moped about it, I wouldn’t be here now. But fighting against it makes me stronger.”

Speaking about the head shave, Esther added: “My hair is very important to me – everyone remembers me for my hair. It’s quite daunting but I think ‘what else can I do?’ I can’t run – I can’t do a lot else.”

Her 21-year-old son Josh Nickless said he was proud of his mum. He added: “I have coped with what has happened from a young age.

“It’s hard but I have come to accept that it’s not going to get better.

“Mum’s speech has slowly deteriorated but over the last year it’s got harder. When mum used to face away from me, I could understand her but sometimes I have to lip read now.”

He added: “I know how important her hair is to her and everyone knows her for her hair, so it’s pretty brave to have it shaved off.”

To sponsor Esther, visit her fundraising page Donations can also be made at one of the following shops in the Winklebury Centre – Greenways Newsagents, John Burton’s Food Market, Winkle-bury Pharmacy, Winklebury Cycles, Cut and Dry or Mr G’s Cafe.