Triathlon legend Brad Beven goes the distance for his mum and motor neurone disease research
FOR the last year of her life, motor neurone disease robbed Yvonne Beven of the ability to speak.
But the devoted Mum and grandmother never missed an opportunity to tell her family she loved them.
She ended every visit with son Brad, a former world champion triathlete from Miriwinni, near Cairns, by painstakingly spelling out the words "I love you'' on an alphabet board.
"Mum always had a lot to say even though she couldn't speak,'' Beven said.
"There was never a time that you'd leave there that she wouldn't spell out: 'I love you'. She did it letter by letter.''
Mrs Beven died five months ago, seven years after she was diagnosed with MND. She spent the past three years in a Gold Coast nursing home, gradually losing the ability to walk, speak and swallow.
But 44-year-old Brad helped his Mum stay at home as long as possible, carrying her on his back up and down three flights of stairs at her Burleigh Heads unit when she wanted to go shopping.
After she went into the nursing home, their shopping trips continued three days a week until just before she died in June.
"She still loved trying things on,'' Beven said. "It took hours trying to get things on and off ... and she loved buying the grandkids clothes. I can't go to those shopping centres now without a tear in the eye.''
Beven will compete in this weekend's Million Metres for MND swim in Brisbane to raise money for the cruel disease that claimed his mum's life.
Mrs Beven fought the disease with a determination Brad was reknown for in the sporting arena.
"She never wanted to talk about dying or any of that,'' he said. "She kept fighting. She had a stationary bike and even though she had to be put on it, she could still move her legs right up until a few months before she passed away.
"She could ride three or four hours straight, really, really slowly. She'd watch the Tour de France and get inspired. I think that probably prolonged her life.''
Beven, a four-time World Cup champion and world number 1 four years in a row, was hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing the day before the Sydney 2000 triathlon trials, robbing him of his Olympic dream. He was in the best form of his life but never reached those heights again.
These days he works as a triathlon coach and still finds watching the Olympics difficult, but his mother's battle has put the disappointments of his sporting career into perspective.
"This illness is shocking,'' Beven said. "The family really suffers along with the person trying to deal with the disease.
"You lose any ability to do anything. It slowly eats away at you. It gets to a point when you're not left with much at all.''
Beven will form part of a Legends team including Susie O'Neill, Jessicah Schipper and Sam Burgess in Sunday's swim.
For more information or to donate: mndandme.com.au
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Doing it for mum: Brad Beven will compete in this weekend's Million Metres for MND swim in Brisbane to raise money for the cruel disease that claimed his mum's life.
Much loved: Yvonne Beven.