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Sunday 24 March 2019

'My mind remains sharp thankfully and I'm in good form and positive' - Gareth O'Callaghan on MSA diagnosis

Gareth O’Callaghan. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Gareth O’Callaghan. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Gareth O'Callghan has revealed that he is in "good form and positive and remaining strong" in the wake of his diagnosis of a very rare neurodegenerative disease.

The 57-year-old radio presenter this weekend announced he will be leaving Classic Hits 4FM in the coming weeks following a diagnosis of Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a rare, incurable disease which attacks the central nervous system.

Speaking to Mick Mulcahy on Cork's RED FM on Monday morning, he said he has been overwhelmed by the response to the news from friends and fans online, and that he remains positive.

"My head space is good," he told Mulcahy, who is filling in for Neil Prendeville on his show.  "My mind remains sharp thankfully and I'm in good form and positive and remaining strong and I really hope to keep doing that for many more years to come."

The radio star shared an emotional post with his fans on social media on Friday, revealing to his followers that the condition is incurable and that he would be leaving his job.

"I thought I might have been able to continue working as normal for another few months but unfortunately the pace and the painful decline of this awful thing has really taken us by surprise. I am absolutely devastated by what is happening to me and of all that lies ahead," he wrote.

Speaking to Mick this morning he added that he has been "blown away" by the number of people commenting and wishing him well on social media.

"I was really taken aback by the beautiful comments from thousands of people who I've never met but people who tell me they feel as if they've known me as a friend all of their lives," he said.

"I will deeply, deeply miss that.  My afternoons will be a lot quieter because I'm not doing what I love doing. What I want to do is spend that time making memories and while I have the quality of life and ability to keep moving around independently."

He said he did not want to wait and miss out on that opportunity.

"Too many people waited and kept working and then it gets to the point where that special space is limited and time is taken slowly away from you. I'm still out here still buzzing and hopefully will see you around the place," he added.

O'Callaghan, whose career has spanned several decades from starting out on pirate radio to Radio Caroline, and 2FM, previously revealed that he was suffering from Parkinsons, but as his condition was progressing at a faster than expected rate, he had many further tests which led to the MSA diagnosis.

He said his neurologist at the Mater Hospital, Professor Peter Kelly, told him he had "one serious fight" on his hands.

"This progresses at a phenomenally fast rate," he said.  "The thing is you have to fight it.  You can't give in to it.  You have to exercise, you have to keep moving."

He initially believed that he would continue working until Christmas, but having spoken to his medical team and his friends and partner Paula he felt now was the right time to end his career, although he said he is "absolutely devastated" to have to do so.

"I just felt that stress and anxiety to this thing... stress is like red meat to a shark to this thing," he added. 

"The more stressed you get the quicker it progresses and the worse you are.  The tremors can be horrific, the spasms can be horrific but they can be medicated for.  But if you remain in a stressful environment the medication doesn't work properly so I said it's probably a good time to go now."

Gareth, who is also a qualified clinical psychotherapist, also revealed that he has new book in the pipeline.

Read more: ‘I won’t back down’ - radio presenter Gareth O'Callaghan leaving Classic Hits after being diagnosed with rare disease  

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