When Cheryl received the diagnosis of MND in 2002 she was 32 years old, married and had a 3-year-old son, Mark. Over the next few years Cheryl found it increasingly difficult to maintain her independence, especially walking up the stairs of their town house, so Cheryl made the decision to move into her parents’ house which is all one level.
For many years Cheryl's mother Rose, and father Andrew looked after Cheryl, even during times when they were sick themselves. Cheryl's longterm carer Mary-Ann, said, “even though her Dad was sick he still supported her … other people might have given up but Cheryl's parents were always there for her.” Andrew and Rose always put Cheryl first and strived to ensure that she was always cared for properly. Cheryl couldn't have asked for more loving and caring parents. It was for these reasons that Cheryl decided that she wanted to do something very special to honour her parents.
Cheryl started organising a specia
l surprise evening around two years ago which began with writing to about 10 different people, including a few celebrities, but unfortunately she received few responses. Cheryl then asked one of the MND volunteers, Chris Robson, for help and as a last resort Chris emailed Cheryl's local council, Darebin Council, about her proposal to present an award to her parents. Much to Cheryl's delight, the Civic Events and Engagement Officer, Bronwyn Ryan- Mercer, said yes and that Cheryl's parents will be presented with a Certificate of Appreciation.
The following words are from Cheryl:
Tonight was a very special night for Mark and I to say a huge thank you to Mum and Dad, for the amazing care they gave us over the past 14 years. This special evening was a surprise for Dad and to get Dad to the venue I told him that my carer, Mary- Ann was nominated for an award and that she invited us to the award ceremony! Bronwyn even gave Mary-Ann a "nominee" badge so it looked official, that was funny (Cheryl and Mary-Ann laughed as they told me about this part of the story). The award ceremony was held at Preston Town Hall with my family, friends, carers and the MND support group in attendance (see photo).
First a few Australia Day Awards were given out and then Dad was presented with his Certificate of Appreciation, the certificate also had Mum's name on it, of course. A few minutes before Dad's name was called out I felt nervous and sick because I didn't know how Dad would react when he heard his name. I had to sniff my peppermint oil, its like smelling salts for me! After Dad received his certificate my brother, John-Paul, gave Dad the two presents I bought: a framed cartoon of the photo of the huge marlin that Dad, John-Paul and my nephew caught and for Mum, a gorgeous purple Swarovski crystal rose with a stem and frosted water drops on the leaf, which Mum would have absolutely loved.
Later in the night Mark sang 3 songs and Mark wrote one of the songs which is called “Thank You.” It’s about thanking my parents for everything they did for me and Mark. It was a wonderful night and I wish Mum was there to receive her certificate and gorgeous crystal rose. A huge thank you to Chris Robson for helping me find a venue, another huge thank you to Bronwyn from Darebin Council for kindly having us as part of your Australia Day Award ceremony and for making my vision turn into the wonderful night that I wanted and one more huge thank you to my brother John- Paul for doing all the running around for me. I really appreciate everyone's help.
Thank you, CHERYL BALAS
This article was originally published in MND News: March/April 2017.