Chris and Rosie Cavill are a couple who forged an instant bond over a remarkable shared connection to MS.
When singer/songwriter and primary school teacher Chris met nurse educator Rosie they had one striking thing in common – they had both grown up with fathers fighting MS.
Their shared experience of MS and its impact on them and their families, resulted in an incredible bond between the couple who are now married with two sons of their own.
“I remember the first time we met, we had this incredible connection because we knew exactly what each other had been through without even talking about it,” said Chris.
Wife Rosie, who lost her dad to MS in 2008, agreed - “It's amazingly comforting to talk to someone else who just gets it.”
Chris was six years old when his dad was diagnosed with MS. While he has faint memories of his dad doing things like driving when he was young, Chris recognises that the roles his parents played slowly changed as his dad’s disease progressed.
By the time Chris was 14 years old his dad couldn’t get around the house without his wheelchair. He stayed home and helped the kids with their schoolwork while their mum worked and took on more and more duties around the house.
Chris says his dad was always incredibly appreciative of everything that everyone did around him and cites it as one of the traits that inspired him so much.
“He could have easily not been that person and that's why he's such a hero for me, I just feel like he just handled it so well, you know?”
Rosie's dad was diagnosed two years before she was born, but she expressed a similar sentiment. She credits her father as always being so grateful for the simple things and never asking ‘why me?’.
“That's such a beautiful thing that they've both been able to give us, that amazing appreciation and perspective of there always being wonderful things to look forward to, no matter what circumstance you're in.”
Rosie says both of their dads invited other people into their lives to fill any gaps they couldn’t physically fill due to their MS. Chris was taught to drive by his neighbor and Rosie’s godfather often ran around the beach with her and her siblings.
“Now looking back, they obviously allowed for those male figures to do those jobs and fill that part that I guess they couldn't,” she said.
While Chris was able to experience many father-son moments (his dad taught him how to use power tools from his wheelchair), growing up with a dad who had MS wasn’t without challenges.
“The biggest thing that I struggled with as a kid was the fact that I couldn't kick the footy with my old man, it emotionally impacted me a lot seeing other kids being able to do that. I think that affected dad too, but he never showed it.”
Rosie say the couple feels driven to honor their dads by reaching out to others.
“We're just driven by the ability to use our skills to reach out to others and make the most of what we've been through in the memory of both our dads,” said Rosie.
Her father’s condition and eventual passing led to her career as a health educator. Throwing herself into her nursing studies and completing a Master’s degree got Rosie through hard times, with a desire to make a difference to people suffering.
As a performer, Chris uses music to reach out. Following the death of his dad in 2017, he channeled his emotions into a number of songs that celebrated his dad’s life, one of which he performed at his father’s eulogy.
Last year’s COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown gave Chris time to revisit those songs and recognise that they may help others. He decided to create an album, ‘Lionheart’ featuring a track by the same name, as a tribute to his dad.
“People would always see the disease and the physical illness, but they didn't always see the emotional toll that happened behind closed doors. That's what this song represents, it highlights and acknowledges that courage.”
Chris now hopes to share this message of courage and resilience with children. Combining his love of teaching with his passion for music, Chris is developing an educational program for kids based on his own experiences.
“I've been working on a program for schools where I perform, share my story and teach kids the process that I used to cope and deal with the things that were going on in my life.”
It’s clear the impact their fathers have had on their lives, with both Chris and Rosie striving to use their experiences to make a difference and help others in honour of their dads. MS may have been the common thread between them, but it is their fathers’ strength and courage that lives on.
Ahead of Father’s Day this Sunday 5th September, MS Australia wishes all fathers in the MS community a wonderful day.
To listen to the Lionheart single visit chriscavillmusic.com or download for free on Spotify and Apple Music.