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AFL star Gary Rohan praises girlfriend Madi Bennett as she reveals secret family heartache

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AFL star Gary Rohan has praised his ‘incredible’ girlfriend Madi Bennett after she opened up about her secret family heartache during an emotional podcast interview.

On Wednesday, the athlete, 30, said the former Geelong Cats physio was ‘one of the strongest people I have ever met’, after she discussed her mother’s death at age 47 following a battle with Huntington’s disease.

In a post shared on Instagram, Gary wrote: ‘I’m so proud of this incredible woman, one of the strongest people I have ever met. I love you.’

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Love: AFL star Gary Rohan has praised his 'incredible' girlfriend Madi Bennett after she opened up about her secret family heartache in an emotional podcast

Love: AFL star Gary Rohan has praised his ‘incredible’ girlfriend Madi Bennett after she opened up about her secret family heartache in an emotional podcast

Madi, 27, had appeared on Power, Strength and Vulnerability: The Mental Health Podcast to discuss her mother’s passing in 2013 when she was just 19 years old.

Her mum had been diagnosed with Huntington’s seven years prior, which is a condition that stops parts of the brain working properly over time and is passed on (inherited) from a person’s parents.

The disease gets gradually worse over time and is usually fatal after a period of up to 20 years. 

Symptoms usually start at 30 to 50 years of age, but can begin much earlier or later.

‘It was very much a part of my reality that I would lose mum earlier than expected, but her death was still quite sudden,’ Madi said.

‘Mum didn’t have much quality of life towards the end, but we still thought we had a bit more time. It took us by surprise, but that’s a part of the disease – it’s so savage, and so unpredictable.’

Support: In a post shared on Instagram, Gary wrote: 'I'm so proud of this incredible woman, one of the strongest people I have ever met. I love you'

Support: In a post shared on Instagram, Gary wrote: ‘I’m so proud of this incredible woman, one of the strongest people I have ever met. I love you’

If a parent has the Huntington’s disease gene, there’s a 50 per cent chance of each of their children developing the condition, and affected children are also able to pass the gene to any they have.

There’s currently no cure for Huntington’s disease, or any way to stop it getting worse.

Madi made the decision to get tested for the gene when she was 23 years old.

After a lengthy process, she find out she was negative – and broke down in tears upon hearing the incredible news.

‘I can’t even explain… there’s no possible words in the world,’ she said. 

‘I just dropped. Just balled my eyes out, went numb, sweaty, crying. I hugged my genetic counsellor for ages. What a bloody process to have gotten to the end of.’

She added that while she never considered having children before, she now ‘can’t wait to be a mum’.

Journey: Gary went 'Instagram official' with Madi in April, but deleted the post one month later after receiving public backlash

Journey: Gary went ‘Instagram official’ with Madi in April, but deleted the post one month later after receiving public backlash

‘I’ll do it when the time is right,’ she said.

Gary went ‘Instagram official’ with Madi in April, but deleted the post one month later after receiving public backlash.

He and his ex-wife Amie Rohan split last year when he travelled with his Geelong teammates to Queensland to join the AFL Covid hub, while Amie stayed in Victoria with their children, Bella, three, and Sadie, one.

The Rohans had suffered unimaginable grief in 2018 when Willow, Bella’s twin, died five hours after birth due to a defect causing babies to be born without parts of the brain.

The pair had been married for four years prior to their break-up, with Amie revealing in April this year the split was more difficult than losing their daughter.

‘The days after my marriage breakdown were some of the hardest days of my life, harder than when we lost Willow,’ she told the Move Your Mind podcast.

While Gary was in the AFL hub, he hooked up with Madi after his marriage broke down, months after Sadie was born.

Madi had been flown cross-country to use her physio skills to help Geelong Cats legend Gary Ablett Jr see out his final season.

Over: Gary Rohan and his ex wife Amie (pictured following Sadie's birth in 2020), split last July

Over: Gary Rohan and his ex wife Amie (pictured following Sadie’s birth in 2020), split last July

What is Huntington’s disease? 

Huntington’s disease is a condition that stops parts of the brain working properly over time. It’s passed on (inherited) from a person’s parents.

It gets gradually worse over time and is usually fatal after a period of up to 20 years.

Symptoms usually start at 30 to 50 years of age, but can begin much earlier or later.

Symptoms of Huntington’s disease can include: difficulty concentrating and memory lapses; depression; stumbling and clumsiness; involuntary jerking or fidgety movements of the limbs and body; mood swings and personality changes; problems swallowing, speaking and breathing; difficulty moving.

Full-time nursing care is needed in the later stages of the condition. It’s usually fatal about 15 to 20 years after symptoms start.   

Huntington’s disease is caused by a faulty gene that results in parts of the brain becoming gradually damaged over time.

You’re usually only at risk of developing it if one of your parents has or had it. Both men and women can get it.

If a parent has the Huntington’s disease gene, there’s a:

1 in 2 (50%) chance of each of their children developing the condition – affected children are also able to pass the gene to any children they have

Very occasionally, it’s possible to develop Huntington’s disease without having a history of it in your family. But this is usually just because one of your parents was never diagnosed with it. 

There’s currently no cure for Huntington’s disease or any way to stop it getting worse.

But treatment and support can help reduce some of the problems it causes.

Source: NHS 

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