Garry and his family are currently travelling across the Northern territory.
Garry and his family are currently travelling across the Northern territory. Kylie Alexander

Roma man encourages others to appreciate life

On most mornings, Roma's Garry Alexander can be found cruising through town, with a smile on his face and a child attached to his wheelchair.

However, Garry has now traded the tidy streets of Roma for the open roads of the outback, heading off in search of Australia's most remote locations.

Garry's story is one of endurance and bravery.

After being diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND) in October 2007 and told he had a life expectancy of 18 months to three years, Garry has proved that not all prognosis' are set in concrete.

In late November, Garry, his wife Kylie and their children once again slipped out of "sleepy ol' Roma town”, leaving the Welcome to Roma sign in their rear-view mirror as they headed out to tackle the Northern Territory.

From shredded tyres and being locked out of their motel room at Daly Waters, to an unexpected Care Flight plane trip to Darwin over Christmas, the Alexanders have been through it all in the last few months, however Kylie said "the good times have always outweighed the more challenging”.

"The Alexanders do not do things in halves,” Kylie said.

"Why sit within four walls depressed, when the whole of Australia is out there to be explored.

"Garry wishes to encourage others and to prove that living with a terminal illness and venturing outside of the box is an achievable goal.

"We all have a terminal illness, it's called life. Some of us are just lucky enough to know an approximate termination date and can make the most out of time.”

Travelling with the illness has thrown up its own set of problems, but Kylie said the family has always found a way around them.

"Aside from the laughable sporadic challenges, there have been real life challenges that go with MND. Carers, location accessibility, the possibility of a Medivac - none of which can be taken light heartedly. However life cannot be lived in fear of them.”

At the end of 2012, 5 years after his diagnosis, Garry set off on a similar journey, a 15,000 km tour of the North. Lapping himself in his motorised wheelchair around Ayers Rock, Garry tore up some dirt on The Plenty Highway, gave The Gibb River road's corrugations a run and watched the sun set over the waters at Broome.

Three weeks after his return to Roma, Garry's condition worsened, which lead to his lungs collapsing.

However, Garry has always been a fighter. An emergency tracheotomy, and Garry was back up and at it, enjoying time with his family and working to encourage others.

Garry has not only defied expectations when it comes to MND, but has done so with a positive and open outlook.

"Being delivered the news you have a terminal illness and just months or years to live, sparks many different feelings and emotions,” Kylie said.

"Each mindset is different to another. Some unfortunately feel after that life is over. But it doesn't have to be that way, within reason and capabilities.”

With the journey just beginning and no set end date in sight, the Alexanders are now preparing to leave the Kidman Springs Research Station and cross the border to Kununurra, with Darwin and Alice Springs next on the agenda.

More of Garry's adventures can be found at the MND .... My New Destination Facebook page.

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