IT was a weakness in her arm that first prompted 33-year-old Sonia De Andrade to visit the doctor.
From there she had an appointment with a neurologist, and three days later was given the devastating prognosis she had Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
Just six weeks before, she became engaged to the love of her life Michael Cipriano.
In September last year, Sonia lost her two-and-a-half year battle with MND, leaving behind her fiance and the couple’s two-year-old daughter Ava.
Determined to help find a cure and honour her memory, Mr Cipriano is fundraising for Cure for MND taking part in this year’s Run for a Reason and holding The Meatball Feast to Fight MND at The Meatball and Cocktail Bar in Fremantle on May 20.
Mr Cipriano said the past seven months had been difficult for him but he wanted to be the best dad he could and pay tribute to his “beautiful” fiance.
“We refused to give up and looked at every option available,” he said.
“Sonia’s strength was highlighted through this difficult time and she still smiled and stayed positive.
“She was such a caring, loving person, a beautiful soul with such a zest for life.
“When the neurologist told Sonia her diagnosis I was left very confused.
“My motivation came after seeing Sonia’s health decline. I made a promise to myself that I would do what I could one day to raise money to beat this disease.
“That positive thought actually helped me deal with all the chaos a little easier.”
Mr Cipriano, along with six other competitors, including former West Coast Eagles player Glen Jakovich, former Fremantle Dockers player Des Headland, Soa ‘The Hulk’ Palelei and Lucas ‘Big Daddy’ Browne, will “eat to beat” MND as part of a meatball challenge.
“The fundraising started with Run for a Reason and that gathered some steam so we decided on another event – the meatball challenge,” Mr Cipriano said.
“Giovanni Pezzano the owner from The Meatball and Cocktail Bar in Fremantle was kind enough to host the event and the idea is for people to sponsor their favourite challenger; each meatball that a challenger eats is worth $2 (minimum).
“So if your challenger eats 30 meatballs the donation will be $60.”
Having already raised $11,000 as a team, Mr Cipriano said the sky was the limit and he wanted to raise as much money and awareness of the debilitating and terminal disease as possible.
“It’s important to raise money and awareness for MND because not many people know about it and what a really horrible disease it is,” he said.
“I want to honour Sonia, I want to be the best dad I can possibly be and raise Ava the way Sonia would have wanted.
“She is such a happy little girl who doesn’t understand the severity of the situation yet.
“When she asks me one day ‘where’s mummy?’ I’ll say that mummy is in heaven and if you want to talk to her put your hand on your heart and she will listen.”
To donate email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Motor Neurone Disease Association of WA is based in Nedlands.
WHAT: The Meatball Feast to Fight MND
WHERE: The Meatball and Cocktail Bar Fremantle
WHEN: Saturday May 20 from 11.30am
WEB: www.facebook.com/themeatballbarfemantle/ or to donate visit www.give.everydayhero.com/au/team-cure-mnd