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Monday 20 November 2017

'I'm still coming to terms with it': Eurovision star on MS diagnosis

Joe McCaul performs with sister Donna during the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev.
Joe McCaul performs with sister Donna during the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev.

Former Eurovision star Joe McCaul has spoken of his heartbreak when doctors told him he has debilitating illness Multiple Sclerosis.

The 25-year-old singer spoke tonight on The Saturday Night Show' of his shock when he got the diagnosis in December.

The star has relapsing-remitting MS, which means he will be susceptible to attacks of the illness for certain periods of time, and he could lose his mobility.

He told presenter Brendan O'Connor: "I could lose mobility..but for now I'm walking and running and doing things."

The bubbly star said he is training for his first ever Dublin marathon tonight, and he is determined to continue living life to the full.

"I hope to run the Dublin marathon this year with my cousin," he said.

But he admitted: "I'm still coming to terms with it. I'm snappy [at home] sometimes."

Joe and his sister Donna had shot to stardom in 2005 when they were chosen to represent Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest.

And while Donna has been busy pursuing her singing career in Los Angeles, Joe has been working in musicals and gigging around the country from his home in Athlone.

But he began to feel unwell last year and noticed that he had an occasional numbness in his feet and a tingling in his hands.

He woke up on November 1 and found that he had lost power from his waist down. He was taken to hospital in Tullamore and later transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.

A series of tests were carried out before he was once more transferred—this time to St James’ Hospital in Dublin.

“My world crumbled around me. I was crying and the doctors just left me be”, he said last month.

“I was initially diagnosed with Transverse Mylitis, which is an inflammation of the spinal cord. But then there were more tests in St James before I was sent home in December.

“When I was at home I got a call from my neurologist’s secretary to come back up to St James’ and I was a bit suspicious, because I had already got an appointment for next May.

“I got into the room and there were three doctors there and my doctor started talking in a general way about MS. I asked straight out ‘have I got MS’ and they said yes”, Joe recalled.

He admitted to being devastated at the news and found it impossible to reconcile the reality of MS and the fact that he was only 25.

But he has since learnt that the disease is not confined to people in the second part of their lives—teenagers have also been diagnosed with MS in Ireland.

“When I got the news nothing made any sense. I couldn’t see a life for myself. When I think MS I only see a wheelchair. I’m still coming to terms with it,” he told the Irish Independent last month.

Joe had already battled through depression and anxiety in his earlier life and overcame those problems to carve out a career for himself in the entertainment business.

He has admitted that he sees a therapist to see him through "dark" times.

With the support of his mother, Helen he has been battling his way through his latest—and biggest—battle to date.

“My Mam gets the brunt of it. I know I can be narky and snappy, but she is great—she understands”, he said.

Christmas, he admits, was ‘horrible’. He was in a wheelchair and on crutches for a time.

He found it impossible to think clearly and only got through the festive period with the support of his family, friends and with messages of support from members of the public.

Now he is determined to battle his way through his MS diagnosis.

But he is already setting himself goals and intent on getting on with his life as best he can. He is taking part in the Athlone Musical Society’s production of Grease in the Dean Crowe Hall in Athlone next month, and he has formed a new band which is already performing around the country.

“I can either lie down under it or get up and go. When people say to me, but you’ve got MS, I say, MS hasn’t got me.

“I love to party and I’m living for now. I’m not thinking about what next year has to offer”, said Joe.

Brian McDonald

Online Editors

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