Unconditional love: one couple's battle with MND
LIKE most couples, when Peter and Christine Castrikum tied the knot 38 years ago, they promised to remain by each other's side for better or worse.
It's a pledge Mrs Castrikum hasn't taken lightly.
Her husband was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in 2013 after losing strength in one arm, and the Lismore couple has battled the speedy progression of the illness ever since.
"We definitely love each other and it's a privilege in a way to be able to care for him," Mrs Castrikum said.
MND is the name given to a group of terminal diseases in which nerve cells (neurones) controlling muscles enabling us to move, speak, breathe and swallow, degenerate and die.
While 72-year-old Mr Castrikum's speech has gradually slurred, his muscles deteriorated and his ability to lift even his head has lessened, the pair's love has remained strong as ever.
Ahead of MND Week (May 3 to 9), they shared their story to raise awareness about MND, which affects about 60 people in northern NSW.
"Peter's finding it very hard to communicate and I can barely understand him some days," Mrs Castrikum, 65, said.
"He used to surf and walk everywhere, gardening all the time, so it's a shock to the system. People get trapped in their own body - my husband's brain is perfect."
"It's been very hard. I gave up my job with City Toyota that I loved. Then I worked part time ... it became obvious there was no way I could do that," Mrs Castrikum said.
"It's full time. Peter can't bathe himself, dress himself - there's not much that he can do now."
Mrs Castrikum said Motor Neurone Disease Australia's help in lending equipment was invaluable.
While MND awareness received a boost recently thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge, Mrs Castrikum said more needed to be done.
"It's important to raise awareness to help find a cure," she said.
MND WEEK EVENTS
To mark the start of MND Week on May 3, Motor Neurone Disease NSW will host the 5km Walk to D-Feet MND fundraiser at Lismore Showgrounds from 8.30am-2pm. Visit http://www.mndnsw.asn.au to register or for more information.