“From the get-go I knew there was no cure – as a parent, I didn’t want to hurt the kids emotionally, but I couldn’t continue hiding it from them anymore. I was constantly falling over, and it got to the stage where I couldn’t stand up,” Michael continues.
As a hands-on dad who loved to shoot hoops and surf with his kids, not being as active with them was the cruellest blow for Michael.
“When I did eventually sit them down, Rocco and Stella cried, and young Frankie and our fur baby Yuki looked at me as if to say ‘it’s OK, Dad, we’re in this together’. It still breaks my heart,” he says, holding back tears.
WATCH: Michael Klim’s Ultimate Skin Care Tips For Men
Never too far away is the special woman who has been there for the swim star since before the devastating diagnosis – Michael’s partner, DJ and music producer Michelle Owen.
“She has great energy, and a genuine sense of calmness. She’s my human walking stick – and the kids love her as much as I do!”
“She has been my rock since the very beginning, especially through some really tough days during lockdown - Michelle is more than just a DJ - she's an artist and one of the most sensitive and creative souls ..I'm a very lucky man.”
Born in Poland before immigrating to Melbourne, Michael says breaking the news to his parents, mum Ewa and dad Wojtek, was something he wished he never had to do.
“They took it hard, as did my beautiful sister Anna, who has spent her life protecting me from the bad things – they remain my biggest supporters.”
As it happens, it’s his second family, the tight-knit swimming fraternity, who’ve rallied around their mate.
“Special mention to Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett, Daniel Kowalski, Chris Fydler, Simon Cowley, Matt Aboud and Adam Pine – what a great bunch,” Michael shares. “And to the wider community who’ve buoyed me with their support – it says a lot about our sport, and the heart-warming camaraderie after all these years.
“It’s uncanny how my illness led me back to the pool – it’s become my happy place again, especially when Yuki joins me for a few laps!”
Michael remains as passionate as ever about water safety. He continues to operate the Klim Swim school in Bali and recently got involved with Swimming Victoria’s Performance Pathways programs. He is also a high-performance consultant for Melbourne’s Firbank Grammar, while his own World Series Swims events continue to go from strength to strength.
WATCH: Michael and Stella Klim at the Logies
While he ponders what is next, for now Michael’s simply taking it one day at a time.
“I won’t sugar coat it – I had serious back surgery in Australia in 2020 to help decompress the nerves in my spine, and I continue to fly back and forth for IVIG (Intravenous Immunoglobulin) treatment.
“I’ve got special orthotics and braces to support my drop foot and weak legs.
Without them I fall over, and I have to use a walking stick,” he explains.
“I’m getting ready to launch the Klim Foundation early next year, to raise funds and awareness for CIDP research, and to help sufferers and carers, many of whom are far worse off than me. I just want to help crack the code – I don’t wish this on anyone.”
Until then, he’ll focus on what he holds most dear.
“For now, I’m looking forward to us all being together for Christmas and celebrating what really counts – love, family, and friends,” he says. “For that, I’m so very grateful.”
For more, pick up the latest issue of New Idea!