Cathy Mclean RIP

FAN committee member and intrepid traveller (9th February 1969 – 2nd August 2012)

Cathy was eighteen years old when she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and was told at that time that she could expect to live for about another twenty years. This diagnosis inspired Cathy to live her life to the fullest. Cathy had a deep love of travel. Her first trip was to Fiji at the age of eighteen and she would eventually visit over 60 countries. Cathy explored these countries with her camera always at her side.

Cathy McLean scales the Great Wall of China.

Cathy McLean scales the Great Wall of China.

Cathy was working as a travel agent in London when she first started to notice that something wasn’t right with her balance and coordination. At the age of 30, after returning to Australia, Cathy was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative, neurological disorder called Friedreich Ataxia. Far from slowing down, Cathy continued to indulge her passion for travel, conquering locations like Everest Base Camp, Machu Picchu, and The Great Wall, with her now trusty walking stick at her side. On a trip to South America Cathy met and befriended some Australian travel guides. Together, they formed a plan to raise funds towards supporting and raising awareness of Friedreich Ataxia. In 2007, Mick McDonald, Brendan Barbetti, Ryan Heath and Jerry Truman decided to raise funds for Friedreich Ataxia. What resulted was a motorbike ride from London to Vladivostok, across Siberia, raising in excess of $20,000. These men went on to form Compass Expeditions.

Cathy was already active in FAN, the Friedreich Ataxia Network which had been founded by Warren DeWeldon and Moira Sexton. FAN’s aim is to provide information and support to people living with FA, their carers, friends and family. Cathy was determined to raise awareness about Friedreich Ataxia, to provide a support network for those living with the condition so that information could be shared.

She secured ongoing support from her friends at Compass Expeditions, and pushed for FAN’s incorporation (it’s now a registered charity). Compass Expeditions continue to provide support to FAN and Mick has recently compiled a book which documents the adventures, inspired by Cath, that led to the company being formed in the first place. Click here to find out more (proceeds from sales go to FAN).

That Friedreich Ataxia Network (FAN) continues from strength to strength is testament to Cath’s drive and passion.

To see Cathy’s video click here:“Tell it as it is Cath”