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Fiona Macdonald opens up about her life now living with MND

It was now or never for Fiona MacDonald to do a trip of a lifetime for MND research.
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Fiona MacDonald might have lost the power of speech, but her irrepressible giggle is still very much in full force.

The It’s A Knockout star has just spent 40 days driving around Australia in a small hatchback, covering 15,520 kilometres, to raise $100,000 for MND as part of It’s a Big Lap, which features on Australian Story.

It’s a trip she dreamed up with younger sister Kylie Thynne, quipping that the sisters were like “Thelma and Louise”!

It’s no mean feat for someone who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2021 and is 23 months into her journey with the illness, which on average typically kills you 27 months after diagnosis.

“We didn’t meet any hot cowboys or drive off a cliff, but we were serenaded by a group of gorgeous, grey nomads at Fowlers Bay,” Fiona, who communicates via a computerised voice, tells Woman’s Day.

The brave pair did a lap of Australia – minus Tasmania – leaving Sydney in July.

(Credit: ABC Iview)

“Kylie told them what we were doing and they were obviously touched by the story because in the morning, one by one, they all appeared and handed me what they could afford.”

“Then they asked us to join them in the camp kitchen and two blokes sang a version of Mark Knopfler’s True Love Will Never Fade. It was a beautiful moment.”

Despite friends and even sister Jacki, the former Hey Hey It’s Saturday co-host, telling her she was crazy for attempting the journey, Fiona wasn’t to be stopped.

The 66-year-old was fed up with sitting on the couch waiting for the incurable disease, which “steals the power of all your muscles inch by inch until you can’t walk, can’t hold hands, can’t talk, swallow or breathe” to get worse.

“My strength is already failing, my left leg is quite weak and I knew it had to be now or never,” says Fiona, who encourages others with motor neurone disease to “allow the emotions to wash over you and don’t let them drown you. Get up and keep going, even if it’s constrained. Try to laugh as much as you can.”

The trip wasn’t without its challenges, from tents almost blowing away to trying to stop emus climbing into their car at Monkey Mia.

Fiona starred on Wombat and It’s A Knockout before becoming a wine writer.

(Credit: ABC Iview)

“Fitting my fold-up wheelchair into my relatively small car was interesting.”

“But with the help of Kylie and two extra drivers, our sister-in-law Linda, an old flatmate Clay, and my son on the harder legs, everything went really smoothly,” says Fiona, who spent weeks creating a detailed spreadsheet of where they would stay overnight and the distance between stops.

Sharing beautiful moments with Kylie and her son Harry Ryan, who joined them for parts of the trip, such as a visit to WA’s Cable Beach, made it more than worthwhile.

“[We were] two women proving we can do anything we set our minds to, despite the challenges.”

The sisters are so close that Kylie is almost able to read Fiona’s mind, relaying what she wants to say when she can’t speak for herself.

“Sometimes your little sister will turn out to be the bravest one of all,” says Fiona.

“The one who volunteers to be your co-pilot for a Big Lap of Australia, 15,500-plus kilometres in 40 days, to raise $100,000. We have always managed to find laughter, even in the darkest of places. Something I’m especially grateful for now as I rage, rage against the dying of the light!”

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