Stan living positively with MND
We all have our problems, some serious enough to rightly ache and complain about, while others have bellyaches so trivial that the former puts the latter to shame.
Stan Watson is 62 and has MND – motor neurone disease – a debilitating illness that over time affects a person’s ability to speak, walk, swallow and breathe.
It is incurable. Life expectancy after diagnosis ranges from anywhere between three to maybe 10 years… for the ‘lucky’ ones.
Mr Watson, a veteran runner of 38 years, 20 of those with Stawell Amateur Athletic Club, is now reliant on – if not confined to – a wheelchair.
But it is wrong to say that he ‘suffers’ from the ravages of the disease that afflicts 2000 Australians.
It is more accurate to say that he endures MND, even if the myriad of frustrations conspire to crack the shell of resistance around him.
“It might seem odd,” he said with a resolute grin, “that the major frustration is being unable to ride my 1950 BSA Bantam motorcycle.
“That was a 30-year restoration project and a real labour of love.
“It was heart-breaking when I rode that bike for the last time.
“I kept mucking up the gear changes. I lacked the strength to compress the clutch, let alone the brakes.”
Within nine months, his ability to drive went the same way as his ability to ride.
“While trying to steer through roundabouts, it seemed like the power steering had failed,” he said.
“Three days later, my foot went to sleep on the accelerator while reversing into the garage.
“That scared the living crap out of me. Had it happened anywhere else, the damage could have been very much worse.”
Mr Watson was diagnosed with MND on August 26, 2016, but it began much earlier, with just a suspicion that something was wrong.
“Household chores like polishing floors, vacuuming, mowing the lawns or trimming a rose vine were leaving me breathless,” he said.
“By the end of 2015, I struggled to hang out the washing.
“I tried to help my son assemble a cot for my grandson and even that caused me grief. I couldn’t manage a single push-up.”
When he could not cut his own toenails he blamed three sets of supermarket cutters for being blunt.
The crunch came when, having watched his wife Karen slave for hours over a hot crockpot of soup, he dropped the lot as he was about to load it into a car.
A more hopeful diagnosis of pinched nerves in his neck was dismissed before the decision-makers – the neurologists – took the guesswork away.
“It was the shock nobody ever wants,” Mr Watson said.
“But there was no doom or gloom, no why me? It wasn’t as if I was given only three months, or six months to live.
“To this day I always think that there’s someone worse off than me.”
The big regret, not being able to cuddle and play with his grandson as he would like, far outweighs the niggling frustration of an itch that he cannot quite reach to scratch.
Recently, Mr Watson donated blood samples and had a skin biopsy, enabling research teams at a Caulfield clinic, Calvary Health Care Bethlehem, to continue their work to find a cure.
He might not have the profile of AFL legend Neale Daniher, who was diagnosed with MND in 2013 and has since dedicated his life to campaigning to fund research into the disease, but Mr Watson is an ambassador nonetheless.
He and his youngest son proudly share a Fight MND tattoo.
“I have a daily reminder on my forearm never to give up,” Mr Watson said.
“I’m fortunate that I have Karen, my wife of 37 years, who is the rock I cling to. She dresses and showers me.
“She is here, there and everywhere for me.
“MND is a killer that can take you quickly or slowly. I’m getting on with life as best I can and think of myself as one of the lucky ones.”
• As part of the recent Big Freeze 4 MND campaign, Mr Watson rallied with members and friends of Stawell Amateur Athletic Club to raise $2000 towards the cause.
FIGHTING MND: Stan Watson, surrounded by Stawell Amateur Athletic Club members and friends, is behind the Big Freeze for MND campaign, which raises money to find a treatment and cure for motor neurone disease. Mr Watson was diagnosed with MND in 2016.