Broadcaster, author and friend Gareth O'Callaghan joined Ryan Tubridy in studio to share the devastating news of being diagnosed with MSA, and what his plans are now that he knows what's ahead.
Although he lives and breathes radio, Gareth has decided that it’s time to hang up the headphones, and unfortunately this decision has been spurred on by a medical diagnosis. He explained his condition to Ryan.
"I began to realise that I was losing a lot of power in my left hand, that my left foot was beginning to drag… I would notice in the morning if I was having mushrooms for my breakfast that I couldn’t actually get the fork in the mushroom, I would have to use the right hand and the mushrooms used to slide off the plate and under the table."
Gareth (57) thought he may have suffered a bit of a stroke and went to his GP, who initially thought it might be a Parkinson’s-like disease. However, after several weeks in hospital, an official diagnosis was reached.
"It’s an illness called Multiple System Atrophy and what it does is it targets three very important areas of your brain and your central nervous system… It targets your movement in the same way Parkinson’s would but it also targets the autoimmune system which looks after your breathing, your swallow, your perspiration, your blood pressure, your bladder, your digestive system and over a period of time, it impairs them to the point where they no longer work and basically I think the only way to put it would be that you become immobile."
Gareth described receiving the diagnosis and attempting to process it in hospital, alone in a room, as he said, sitting on the side of his bed in his dressing gown when his friends were off having a pint at the local. He said, "You kind of think to yourself, why?… What am I meant to do now?"
Ryan is joined by broadcaster @GarethOCal to talk about his career and, sadly, his recent diagnosis of Multiple System Atrophy - a rare form of Parkinson's disease @RTERadio1 pic.twitter.com/aGkkjKa9QW— Ryan Tubridy Show (@RyanTubridyShow) August 28, 2018
Unfortunately, Gareth’s disease progresses at a swift pace and while he has accepted the reality of its incurability, he firmly believes that attitude is everything. He says what keeps him balanced is focusing on each day at a time and remaining upbeat and engaged in life.
He has decided to bid farewell to the microphone in favour of savouring the small moments – taking walks, visiting beautiful areas, writing – in which he finds a different side to himself, and of course, making the most of his time with his three daughters and two grandchildren.
Gareth keeps his life as active and as positive as possible, but there are also "very dark moments".
"I was actually asked by a couple of people last week are you scared of dying. No, I’m not afraid to die. Death doesn’t scare me, I just don’t want to die… I want to keep living and maybe with that positive kind of view that I’m not going to let this thing get that close to me for a very long time, hopefully, I will be able to keep going."
Click on the video above to listen to Gareth’s interview in full.