Carer Conversations

Carer Conversations 004 - From Carer, To Author to OAM Recipient

Episode Summary

If your son had been in a tragic car accident and doctors and specialists repeatedly told you that he wouldn’t live, how would you cope? Patty Kikos interviews Cheryl Koenig OAM, who not only received the Order of Australia Medal, was named Woman of the Year, but also authored 5 books. Cheryl is passionate about advocating for carers voices to be heard. She also shares about her son’s miraculous journey to recovery. We will commence our Book Club with her latest novel called ‘In My Blood’.

Episode Transcription

Cheryl:

I ended up sort of working my way up to be the secretary of an investment director in a merchant bank and teaching people word processing in the end, before I had my first child.

Patty:

So not only am I already inspired by you, but I love the fact that you are the author of 5published books, and you didn't finish high school.

This makes me respect you even more than I already do.

Cheryl:

Thank you. I thought you might think, I'm not worthy of being here.

Patty:

No, I think you're even more worthy because education is continued learning, and I think it's all about intention. So many people close to me don't have a university degree, but I consider them to be very, very learned.

Cheryl:

Exactly! I actually say that about Jonathan, my son, that he has taught others around him and me about credibility. Credibility doesn't come in the form of IQ numbers or university degrees or sporting trophies.  It comes from the qualities within. The persistence and determination and the courage and audacity to thrive through challenges. Get through challenges. Any way you can.

Billy:

From the Carer Gateway at the Benevolent Society, we welcome you to, Carer Conversations with your host Patty Kikos.

The Care Gateway is the Australian Government national care hub and provides reliable services, support and advice especially for carers.

This podcast is where we share interviews with guests that have specialized knowledge to help support carers to look after their emotional, mental and physical well-being.

We are recording on Aboriginal country, on lands which were never ceded. We acknowledge the traditional custodians and cultural knowledge holders of these lands and waters. We pay our respects to Aboriginal elders, past and present.

Always was, always will be.

Patty:

Cheryl Koenig OAM is a Sydney based author of 5 published books and the highly sought-after motivational speaker. The OEM stands for the Order of Australia medal that she has received for services to people.

The OAM stands for the Order of Australian medal that she has received for services to people with disabilities, their families and carers, which she received in 2014. Her involvement with disability services arose out of caring and advocating for her son, who was severely injured in a motor vehicle accident. 

Her speaking roles have taken her all over Australia as well as Brazil. In 2008 she has been a keynote speaker on many topics and in many forums, from delivering an inspiring speech to graduating students at Macquarie University to judging 30 short stories from Monash University in their WordBest competition. 

She has been an Australia Day ambassador since 2011 as well as an ambassador for several non for profit organisations. Cheryl sits on various government and NGO committees in the health care arena. Now if this wasn't impressive enough, in 2009, Cheryl was named NSW Woman of the Year for her huge commitment to community and for fund raising work. 

However, Cheryl sees her most important role of a carer, and she emphasises this every time someone speaks highly of her professional and academic achievements. 

These are the qualities that Cheryl believes carers and body optimism: Audacity, hope. Surviving daily challenges for themselves, and for those they love. Her 5th book, a memoir, deals with all those human qualities that are necessary to not only survive a life-threatening diagnosis and a subsequent insidiously painful disease, but to thrive in spite of them. 

Cheryl is petite and slender in her physical stature, but the power of her presence is boundless. She has a sharp mind and an extraordinarily kind heart. I've had the good fortune of meeting her on a few occasions, and I am in awe of how much she is in service for other carers. 

The caring role is one that is often overlooked. And in some cultures, even made invisible, especially for women. In addition to her own responsibilities for her family, Cheryl tremendous spirit has the enormous capacity to extend and to be an advocate for carers when they cannot advocate for themselves. 

She is as real as she is inspirational and has remained humble in spite of her impressive professional accolades Cheryl continues to volunteer her time to improve health care services, which she combines with her passion for promoting her message of triumph over adversity and the importance of hope being a powerful one.

Her personal motto is never underestimate your potential to beat the odds. It's not important where you finish, but it is important that you try. For more information, you can visit her on her website which is www.cherylkoenig.com.au

Cheryl. I'm going to ask you as many questions as possible about your caring role. But before I do, I'm curious about your life before you became a carer. Where did you grow up? What did you study? Where did you work? 

Cheryl:

Well that was such a lovely intro Patty that. Sort of blew my mind. :)

Where did I grow up? I grew up in in the southern Sydney suburb of Oatley and lived there for 19 years until I married my husband at 19. What did I study? Well, I don't know. It's a bit embarrassing because I didn't finish school. I met my husband at 15 at the end of what was then 4th form, which is now year 10 and he had said to me that he saw our future together. 

I knew I wanted to be with him. He knew he wanted to be with me, but we needed to do it, you know the right way and work. And so, I wanted to leave school, despite it being against the wishes of my mother and my schoolteachers too. 

They sort of rang my mother and said, “don't let her leave”. I was in all top classes and I think I was in the top 2% in German. I have this sort of secretive passion for languages. And and yeah, so I don't have any formal education other than I went to secretarial college, and that lasted about a week.

Patty:

How’s your shorthand these days?

Cheryl:

Terrible. I can't do that. I can't type. I taught myself to type eventually.

Patty:

OK, so not only am I already inspired by you, but I love the fact that you are the author of 5 published books and you didn't finish high school. 

Cheryl:

That's right

Patty: 

This makes me respect you even more.

Cheryl:

I thought you might think no, I'm not worthy of being here.

Patty:

No, I think you're even more worthy because education is continued learning, and I think it's all about intention. So many people close to me don't have a university degree, but I consider them to be very, very learned.

Cheryl:

Exactly I actually say that about. Jonathan, my son. And that he has taught others around him and me about credibility. Credibility doesn't come in the form of IQ numbers or university degrees, or sporting trophies. It comes from the qualities within. Like persistence and determination and the courage and audacity  to come through challenges, and get through challenges anyway you can.

Patty:

Speaking of Jonathan, can you tell us about his accident and how it changed your entire family world?

Cheryl:

Yes I can. I can do that because it's 25 years ago now and he was 12. He's now 37. So he was a 12-year-old little boy with the world at his feet. He was a very active bright boy. He loved all sports! He could play any sport. He was very natural, and he was also very natural with music and languages. 

He did really well in year 7 in his half yearly exams. He came first in Italian and in music. His two favourite subjects, so he was playing the guitar and the piano and the clarinet and this Sunday afternoon, we had toasted sandwiches, something simple for lunch and he said to me, “I love days like today, Mum, I love it when we just stay home and don't go anywhere. They're my favourite days”. 

And as he got up and he ran out the the door to play with his friends out the front because we live in a cul de sac. My last words to him could have been, “Don't forget you've got homework to do”. Yeah, and I often think of that. They could have been my last words to him, and you know, I'd take that back if I only knew.

His accident happened a few hours later it was about 20 past 5 on a May afternoon in late May, and he was on the corner of our street, but a very quiet st, and he was playing with his friends and his father had driven past and said to him “you better get on home, it's getting dark.” and I was cooking Mexican dinner on the stove. 

And all of a sudden, the doorbell was frantically ringing and what had been a very ordinary normal day for a very typical suburban family turned into a day of such darkness and tragedy.

He actually did die in my arms on the road. And in the ambulance. We were fortunate quite a few times and the biggest blessing was when the ambulance arrived, probably a few minutes after he had died in my arms and. They immediately attended to him. They got him in the ambulance and they wouldn't let us in for some reason. I was thinking why aren't they letting me in?

Patty:

Is it because they wanted to try and resuscitate him?

Cheryl:

Yes, they were working on him the whole time and we got sort of ushered into the back seat of a police car. And he drove frantically, trying to catch up to the ambulance, and we found them. They had stopped on a busy road and then they took him to St George Hospital.

When we saw them, they were stopped in the middle of a set of traffic lights, and they wouldn't let us out of the car. The policeman just locked the doors and said “no to stay where you are.”  My husband and I were just hugging each other. I was actually saying “he's gonna be alright” because my husband was saying, “Oh my God, this is terrible. This is terrible. What's happening? What's happening?” and was saying, “don't worry, he's going to be alright”. This is kind of indicative of our personalities as well.

Patty:

So basically, what had happened was he'd been hit by a car. Is that correct?

Cheryl:

Yeah, that's right. He was crossing the road to come home and a car coming down the hill didn't see him. He was actually waved across the road by the car that was stationary behind my husband.

And Jonathan had walked down the side of my husband's car and in between the two cars he was waiting. He knew, I mean he was 12 years old. He knew the road rules and he crossed that street every day to go to school and get the bus and the car. He waved him across the road, so he crossed looking at that driver, but he did not see the car coming down in the opposite direction, and it sent him flying about 20 metres into the air. 

Patty:

OK and so fast forward, a little bit later you were in the police car. The ambulance had stopped. Why had they stopped?

Speaker 2

He needed resuscitating again, and they were joined by a paramedic ambulance and this time when they took off it was very slowly and that's how we proceeded to St George Hospital. And yeah, so it all began there, and it was every parent's worst fear. 

What can I say, our lives were really turned upside down in a split second and the whole dynamic of our family changed in that split second.

Patty:

Tell us more about that well.

Cheryl:

Chris, for instance, my youngest son, was 10. Oh how he fretted for me. I stayed with Jonathan in hospital for almost six months and Chris was kind of shifted around and ended up spending most of the time with his grandparents, who were overseas when the accident happened.

Patty:

So, they had to hot tail it back?

Cheryl:

Yes, they did. Everyone was informed that he wasn't going to make it. So I had family coming in from all directions. I was the only one who kept saying “he's going to be alright.” I hadn't even cried. I kept saying “don't cry, why are you crying? He's going to be alright!” So I was in denial this whole time.

Patty:

I just got goosebumps with your tenacity.

Cheryl:

Well, I was just denial, but I think you know, there's nothing really wrong with a mother in denial. 

Patty: 

Well, don't they say. “Hope is always the last thing to die?”

Cheryl:

Yeah, exactly yeah so family streamed in, and he spent 3 weeks in intensive care in a coma on life support and every day they told us would be his last day, and to say goodbye to him, because he probably won't make it through the night.

Patty:

25 years later, I got to say hello to him today when we were driving here.

Cheryl:

Exactly! And then when he did miraculously pull through. His eyes opened, but they were telling me the lights are on and nobody’s home. Then they took more CT scans. The neurologist said to me, “It's not good. He has a very poor prognosis” and I said, “but I think he's starting to squeeze my hand I'm seeing signs of recognition.”

And he kind of clicked his fingers above Jonathan’s head to get him to pay attention. And Jonathan’s eyes were fixed to the right at that time, so he didn't move his eyes at all. And the the neurosurgeon said, “his scan is consistent with his vegetative state and he will most likely remain in a permanent vegetative state.”

Patty: 

Had they told you at that stage that it was a traumatic brain injury?

Cheryl:

Yep, and that's probably something I knew very little about. Yeah that I wish I knew more about that.

Patty:

Well, how would you if you didn't have context for knowing about it?

Cheryl:

You know, it's funny with traumatic brain injury, we're getting a lot more info or the death rate is going down so people are surviving when they’ve been in a terrible accident, but they're walking away with these traumatic brain injuries. 

Because medicine has come so far, yes, but still, we're not discussing it. It's a very hidden disability. Yeah, and we're not discussing it, and if you were to hear about a car accident today on the road, you might hear that person had suffered a head injury. So what's the thought you think of? Oh, there's a bit of blood, as the head tend to bleed. But the media do not publicise much about brain injuries.

Patty:

Not just about car accidents, but footy players as well.

Cheryl:

Yeah, that's starting to turn the tide in that and my friend and colleague who I've sat on a lot of committees with, he's actually the CEO of Brain Injury Australia. His name is Nick Rushworth. He is the instigator of all of that. He started it when he visited America and came back and said, look, you know it's been proven over there wit certain CT scans and other things that can be done. 

Patty:

Can you tell us at the time what did your caring role entailed? Because you mentioned that you spent 6 months in hospital with Jonathan.

Cheryl:

I sort of made a promise to him when he was in a coma and he was in a coma for a long time because when his eyes opened and he couldn't speak, then for probably 4 months so that he couldn't be measured as to how long his coma was. At one point they said to me. It was ten months when he started to answer questions, but you know it was earlier I feel, but that was the medical opinion at the time. 

So, my caring role entailed me staying with him. I slept next to him on chairs. I was given a bed in there. I moved wherever he was moved, and my husband went home to be with Chris, after Jonathan came out of the intensive care. My husband stayed with me, for the first 3 weeks, and then I said to him, “it's time to go as Chris needs you and I'm not leaving Jonathan”

So, I then did everything that a nurse might do for him because I wanted to. I wanted to nurture him, and I did. Even when the tubing came off him, each time was a sort of a small milestone that we were chipping away. I think, at one stage connected to about 22 different things and slowly they all got disconnected and I remember the day that I was able to lie up in bed next to him and cuddle him. And I did that.

Patty:

Of course.

Cheryl:

Every day, every night I just, you know, put him to sleep like that and rubbed his head and sang his songs and you know he used to lie there. We actually made tapes. His brother did that, and we played the music he used to love.

Patty:

Like back in the day when we made mixed tapes?

Cheryl:

Yes yes!

Patty:

Yes and he was incontinent as well, wasn't he?

Cheryl:

Yeah, he was in in nappies. And it was virtually like having a baby reborn again in a 12 year old body.

I had to re teach him how to go to the toilet now. I picked up on the signals of that in hospital, even because I think if you open the file on Jonathan Steven Koenig in Sydney Children Hospital, if they still have it, and you go to it, on top of every page in red, it would be probably say, “mother in denial”. Because I always kept telling the specialist that “he was doing this, and he was doing that”, but no one would believe me because they didn't see it, and he wouldn't do it for them.

Patty:

I don't know if you were in denial, but you were certainly hyper vigilance. It was your son. You didn't want him to die.

Cheryl:

That's right.

Patty:

I mean, during the initial shock of trying to process what had happened, is there something you know now that you wish you could have known then?

Cheryl:

I wish I would have known more about brain injury, and I wish there was more information about real stories. I needed real stories. I used to send my husband to the library and eventually I started going to the library to try and source some real stories. And there was nothing. There was information on people who had spinal injury, and so I read a lot about that, and about never giving up. 

I think the Janine Shepherd book was one of the first books I read early on. Every time the doctor said something negative which was just about every day, such as “he's not going to do this, or you'll never be able to do that, or he won't be able to go to a normal school or he'll never walk and never talk, or he won't eat again..” every time that happened, I would just sit there and think, “You don't know. You don't know him, and you don't know me and we will prove you wrong!”and that's why I wrote about it. Actually, to show what can be done.

Patty:

Yeah, and I think that's very important because in neuroplasticity we have this notion that our brain is like plastic. It can certainly change. So, if we can see somebody’s success story, our mirror neurons notice that there's either a template or a prototype, or some notion of a mentor that's a couple of steps ahead of where we aspire to be, and we need that because our mirror neurons need to see that it is possible. We need to have our notion of what is possible to expand. 

Cheryl:

That's what I needed to see, what was possible. Exactly how you describe it, and I did not need to be told, there's no hope. You know there's no hope, all in that negativity, because in my mind, there's always hope, and there's no such thing as false hope. I understand that doctors must, you know, possibly give you the the worst-case scenario.

Patty:

They have to err on the side of caution, don't they?

Cheryl:

But they in doing that, they take away all hope, which can be like the falling of a guillotine. 

Patty:

What you're describing to me, sounds eerily like that positive mindset that is required for you to manifest what you need and to get through tough times, which is very different to “mum is in denial”, like the doctors might have suggested, which is a little bit like having those rose-colored glasses on or that spiritual bypass. Yeah, I think that positive mindset is like you said, “I needed boundaries. I just needed to not be around negative people and I needed to read and hear stories of people’s success.

Cheryl:

I needed to know what was possible. Yes, stop telling me what he can’t do.

Patty:

In the keynote speech that you delivered to Parliament House, that I was very lucky to be able to attend, you spoke a lot about identity and how in this Western culture it's very much tied to what we do professionally and not so much who we are as people. And I was personally very touched by how proud you are when you stated that you are a carer, and especially as this is a role that has traditionally been invisible for so long, especially sometimes for women in many cultures. My question is, what inspired you to become an advocate for carers when you were in the throes of it for so many years?

Cheryl:

Yeah, good question. Well, it started with me wanting to change the the way brain injury is perceived and I thought I might be possible to contribute to changing the rehabilitation services that were very inadequate. I ended up taking Jonathan to Melbourne for really, you know, top notch help. They have a completely different mindset down there and I found the one person, the physio that I was looking for and I would go wherever he was. If he was in England, I would take Jonathan to England. He was that good.

Patty:

So this is suggesting that you really did your research, yes?

Cheryl:

Yeah, and so it started off with me becoming a consumer representative on various boards and committees for NSW Health in the area of brain injury and I wrote this one book called, ‘There's always hope just alter the dreams’, a title I gave it, but it went around Sydney. They the chairperson and the the specialists and the clinicians asked me if I would get stories down about the people, so I did that for them. 

I drove around Sydney and even I think on on the outskirts of Sydney to get stories about people who had suffered brain injury from the very mild to the extremely severe. And if they weren't able to contribute their story, I got artwork.  Well, in doing that I then met so many inspiring carers. 

Patty:

Who all had similar issues? 

Cheryl:

Umm, who all felt that they weren't being heard? Their voices weren't being heard. 

Patty:

So you kind of found your own community?

Cheryl:

Yeah, I had not joined a support group because I didn't have time because I was doing all this committee work.

I was helping Jonathan get back to school and taking him to school and sitting in on classes and taking notes because he couldn't write. He has an intention tremor in his good arm. That's his right arm and his left side is weaker. Like someone who did in fact have two major strokes while he was in a coma, so his left side is affected like that, and his good side has this intention tremor that comes out when he writes or eats or drinks.

Patty:

Well, it's a good thing you didn't waste those last two years at school because you ended up going back anyway, didn’t you?

Cheryl:

Yeah, well I had to. He got his HSC, but I took all the notes for him.

I couldn't do the test for him, he did it all on him on his own with a writer. And then went to TAFE with him, because you see, again uneducated, went to TAFE. I had to enroll at that time because of the public liability issues.

I took notes for him. He did a retail certificate his first job in a video store. Actually, I took the notes so we both enrolled, and he did the exam at the end, and he went up on stage and collected his diploma and I got a fail in the mail because I didn't sit the exam.

Patty:

Oh they should have given you an honorary diploma! {both giggle}

Cheryl:

 It was quite funny, really.  I didn't want anything like that, but yeah.

Patty:

And then tell me how this role that you created for yourself to be a care advocate and then become a motivational speaker?

Cheryl:

Through probably the writing and. A booklet I wrote was called the ‘Courage to Care’ and it's full of inspirational stories of carers who made even more sacrifices than I did. And, well, I don't see it as a sacrifice. That's the wrong word to use, really. But I mean, were probably more committed even than myself. 

I was also committed in these other areas; I think I did it because I somehow needed to turn something so tragic around. I need to find something positive. For myself, like Jonathan was getting better, yes, this was sort of at the 5-year mark. And he was well and truly back at school every single day. And he was walking again by that point. And don't get me wrong, we worked 8 hours a day for a decade on him around the clock doing all these various bits and pieces including holistic programs I sourced out.

You know I don't know how parents would have done it without the Internet, but I found all these things because I knew I had to work on his spiritual side, his emotional side, and his academic side. I had to do it all, so it was a full-time job. 

But along with that, I also did the fundraising and the committee work and and I just saw a need for having written the the second booklet for the current care. It was a need for carers to be heard, have a voice. And that's just how I am. I think, if I see a need, I've got to help. 

Patty:

Most carers - and most of us - will get so tired after 8 hours of work but you just kept going.

Cheryl: 

I did get tired at about the 10-year mark. I got extremely tired. I was doing talks up and down the coast of NSW. In fact, I was driving myself. I'd left my husband to look after the home and get Jonathan to work because by this time he was working every day, in part-time jobs and also learning to drive me. He's doing all these things that he was told he would never do again, and that’s when I wrote his story, ‘Paper Cranes’. Yeah so, I was then on the promotional tour.

I was doing sometimes 3 talks a day in regional NSW. And also, driving myself and I got really tired, and I thought it was from that.

But it was actually more to it. And then I got very sick when I was named NSW Woman of the Year. I remember standing on the stage getting the beautiful trophy and the bunch of flowers and, you know, not quite believing what had happened. I didn't think it was possible and not needing it either. I didn't need that kind of accolade, but it's lovely to be recognised. 

But I remember thinking I can't stand here anymore for the photos afterwards and that I was so fatigued. It was fatigue. I could not describe.

Patty:

Because you were so exhausted you mean?

Cheryl:

And I had all these other symptoms to that. No doctor had joined the dots. Until I was in heart failure and told I had just a couple of weeks to live with lung cancer, they thought it was at first. But it turned out to be blood cancer, and so that's why my 5th book is called ‘In My Blood’. Not only was it cancer in my blood. But it's also in my blood to never give up.

Patty:

I love the double meaning. And I know in your speech, as you have mentioned, that you haven't always taken your advice. So, would this be your primary advice for carers to ensure that they look after themselves? 

Cheryl:

Yeah, and I was guilty of it. I probably still am to a degree, but I know that you must look after yourself and you have to find meaning and purpose in your life. 

You care for someone, but after all, you're a person, with needs and wants as well. And you've got to find what it is that consistently makes you happy and you've got to do that.

Patty:

Yep, I always say that if we don't schedule our downtime or our joy time, it will never get done because we need to keep  our spirits uplifted.

Cheryl:

No, no one else is responsible.

Patty:

You know the caring role can include some complex mixed feelings such as anger, sadness, grief, sometimes even resentment, and it can be a heavy-hearted time. For carers as they're grieving the decline of their loved one's health, the change in their relationship dynamic, and sometimes the end of a chapter in a career that they might not necessarily be done with, especially if they've had to give up paid work to look after their loved one, or their care recipient. How did you navigate such heavy complex emotions?

Cheryl:

I think I navigated every motion you just described, and I was in paid work. We had our own business, so I was working three days a week doing the the book work. How did I navigate it? To be honest, I don’t know how I did.

Patty:

I appreciate your honesty.

Cheryl:

Yeah, I don't know how I did it, but I did it and what I do know is that if it happened again, I'd do it all over again in the blink of an.

Patty:

OK, because you were fueled by your desire and your love for your son, weren't you? And that's a that's a fuel that still ignites your spirit today isn't it?

Cheryl:

It does, yeah.

Patty:

I've heard you give great advice to carers when you've encouraged them to write their feelings out. In fact, you've authored many books and we've both shared about our mutual love of writing. For our audience that are listening, when we first launch this episode with Cheryl, I'd like to announce that we will also be launching a book club in mid-November, so that’s 2022 and we shall be starting it off with Cheryl latest book that she just mentioned called ‘In My Blood’ and to emphasise, once again how generous Cheryl’s spirit is, all profits from all of her books get donated to charity. 

Now what other advice would you give carers that might not necessarily be inclined to write Cheryl?

Cheryl:

That's a hard one because writing is where I go to both lose myself and find myself. I often find the answers to questions that I'm unknowingly seeking. I don't you know, it doesn't necessarily have to be a memoir or, you know, creative stuff, but just keeping a journal. I've heard that said many times and I have done it. Writing down what you're grateful for is really beneficial. 

Patty:

Gratitude is a magnet for miracles, isn't it?

Cheryl:

Yeah, yeah. And it creates a good start to the day. It's a really good start to the day to get up and choose to be happy because it is our choice. It is our choice. You know it's just again finding an activity that let's your spirit come outYes, that's really what it is about for me.

Patty:

Yes, yes, now I think it might be time for some rapid fire wrap up questions Are you ready? 

Cheryl:

Yep, sure fire away. 

Patty:

OK, you are a writer. Well, what is your favourite word?

Cheryl:

4 letter word. 

Patty:

Is it a 4letter word?

Cheryl:

Yeah

Patty:

What is it? 

Cheryl:

Hope

Patty:

Ah, of course. Where did you go on your last holiday?

Cheryl:

They went to Perisher Valley skiing. Not that I can ski anymore, but I really do miss it out of everything that I used to do and the one thing that that I can no longer do because of my condition. So once I get on the snow, I think I'm just going to put on Jono’s ski’s..

Patty:

Can Jono ski??

Cheryl:

Yeah, he can ski. So, skiing and with my granddaughters, I have to mention them. They are the joy of my life. They are my panacea for everything.

Patty:

Describe your style in a word or a sentence.

Cheryl:

So, one word I would say is authentic.  You've just got to do it for yourself.

Patty:

Yeah, that's true.

Cheryl:

And I do. That's why I say authentic. My dress dressing style, my decor at home and my personality is what I do for myself. Yeah, I'm a fussy person. I have things well organised at home but I don't do it for anyone else. I do it for myself, I don't have many visitors to my home, so I'm clean for me, because I like to keep my house clean. Yep, so I that's why I say authentic.

Patty:

And then it’s less exhausting because you don't have to go against the grain of who you really are. OK, I've got another question. Do you have an unpopular opinion about pop culture?

Cheryl:

Uhm, pop culture is. Yeah, it's a tricky one too. But I have. I guess I don't like playlists. You know, like I don't use Spotify or those kind of things on my phone.

Patty:

So how do you listen to your music?

Cheryl:

I like to buy my CD or even going back to records now in albums which I like better, and I like to play. When I'm in the mood and even in the car when I when I'm driving, I will play this CD from start to end because to me it's like a book. It's like turning the pages of a book.

Patty:

So another example of how you stay authentic. OK, what has been your favourite age so far?

Cheryl:

Uhm, I think. I live in the moment, so I'm going to say now.

Patty:

Ah, and my lucky last question.. finish this phrase. The way to my heart is...

Cheryl:

The way to my heart is to give me a good book and leave me on the beach to read under a sunny sky. Yeah, but also, I do appreciate having breakfast in bed.

Patty:

And who does that for you?

Cheryl:

My beautiful wonderful father, and if you think I'm patient and committed, he's even twice what I am. In fact, I've said to him the OAM is actually his. He deserves a medal, not me. 

Patty:

And you said Father, you meant husband, right? 

Cheryl:

Yes, I meant my sons’ father. So, he brings me breakfast in bed to get me motivated and going in the morning because I am a little bit stiff.

Patty:

Cheryl, I could speak with you forever and I'm thrilled that our paths will cross again at other events. Thank you so much for coming today and sharing your wisdom and so much of your beautiful essence with us.

Cheryl:

Thanks Patty, it's been great.

Patty:

You're so welcome. There are many things that have touched me from this conversation, but also other things that I have heard Cheryl say. Especially this quote about how in reality there are only four categories of people in this world. Those who have been carers, those who are currently carers, those who will be carers and those who will need carers. 

Folks, I hope you found this conversation with the lovely Cheryl as motivating as I have. In fact, if you've loved our episode so far, subscribing and leaving us a 5-star review will help build our audience of carers just like you. Until we either meet in person or on our next episode goodbye and take extra special care of you today.

Billy:

If you are caring for a relative or a friend who has a disability, a mental health condition, a life limiting health or medical condition.

Or they are frail because they're getting older. Please contact us at Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737, or look us up on carergateway.gov.au

And if you are a carer, you're allowed to take time to look after yourself. You are just as important as the person you take care of.