The story of Evelyn and Terry Shinn
Evelyn and Terry Shinn met 57 years ago when Evelyn, then just 17, returned to live in Trundle, New South Wales, with her family. Terry, who was 25 and working for Telecom (now Telstra), asked her out and three and a half years later they were married in Trundle.
“We’ve been married 53 years now,” says Evelyn, who was a full-time homemaker while their four children were young.
The family moved around the state with Terry’s work, until a redundancy when he was 40 gave them the opportunity to move to Grafton, where Evelyn had a sister living.
“It also was good for the children because they were training in diving at a state level and there were good facilities there,” says Terry. “I did a lot of athletics when I was younger but I think I only ever did about two dives, but I had a cousin who was a good diver.”
Terry found work with a builder doing framework, concreting and building footpaths. Later he worked in a door-making factory and then did a decade as a security officer with Armagard. After that came traffic control, a stint at fruit-picking and finally work for the local council.
“I also had a return to Telstra preparing for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney,” says Terry. “I had to teach a lot of younger employees about cable joining which was needed for all the new work.”
“When we moved to Grafton I did a course for women returning to work and then found work at the BBC (now Bunnings) hardware store,” says Evelyn, who worked there for many years under various owners.
The Shinns had always enjoyed going out dancing, so when Evelyn found she was having trouble moving around Terry while waltzing, she was puzzled. At first, in 2006, this was diagnosed as Parkinsonism, caused by certain prescription drugs. However, by 2008, a diagnosis of Parkinson’s was confirmed, which was a huge shock to them both.
“When we came home after the diagnosis, Evelyn was really panicking, nearly jumping out of her skin,” recalls Terry.
“We rang up Parkinson’s NSW in Sydney and they gave us the number of the local Parkinson’s support group,” says Evelyn. “Getting on to the support group has been a big help. We’ve been members since 2008. We sit down and have a talk about all kinds of things, medications and issues, and you find others who are the same as you.”
As Evelyn’s symptoms have worsened over time as initial drugs are no longer as effective, things they loved like going dancing have slowed. Evelyn has recently started on Duodopa and is hopeful that may buy the couple some more time to get out and do things, including some longer trips away.
“We can’t dance as much,” Evelyn says. “We used to do a lot of travelling but now I have to be really prepared with my medications available and kept cool, no matter where we are.”
Much of the house and garden work has fallen to Terry.
“I do the vast majority of the house cleaning and as much garden as I can,” he says. “Evelyn tries to garden but she often falls over. I’m not much of a gardener, but as a lawn mower I’m all right. We can’t get out and do much now. We go shopping and we’re half way through shopping and I need to take Evelyn home. We can’t really get out and be sociable. So far I’ve been in good health. I played a lot of golf but I’ve had to cut down. Nowhere near as much as I might have played, now.
“The last 12 to 18 months have been pretty ordinary. She’s more self-conscious and doesn’t want to be out much. We do go to Forget Me Nots (an inclusive singing group organised through Dementia Australia) each week and quite a few with Parkinson’s go. The Parkinson’s support group is once a month and we have a talk and lunch.
“We spent a fair bit of time looking at Deep Brain Stimulation for Evelyn but during the process we discovered she’d had a stroke and that ruled that out. That’s why she started on Duodopa.”
The Shinns have already done some travel around Australia.
“We did the centre up through South Australia and up to Darwin and then home,” says Terry. “Then my eyes were playing up and I had to get that treated. The funny thing was when we were travelling with our van we also had a little dog. We’d pull up at a caravan and someone would say ‘you’ve got a little cutie there’ and we’d think they were talking about the dog. But they were actually talking about our little caravan.”
The Shinns ‘inherited’ the dog after getting it to keep both their mothers’ company, as they lost their husbands and moved in with the Shinns.
“We had a high-rise house and over the years our children helped us close in the bottom of the house,” says Terry. “We’d put in a shower and toilet with safety rails so Evelyn’s mother and then my mother come and live with us. When they’d both passed away we had the dog for years. Now we are living in the downstairs flat with the disabled fittings and we rent the upstairs out for some money.”
The Shinn’s children now have their own children and the Shinn’s now have a great-grandchild as well.
“We have a son in Melbourne, a daughter in Moree, a daughter in a little shop down south and another one at Ulmarra,” says Evelyn.
“We’ve just got to learn to accept it. Take every day as it comes.”