Wednesday 19 June 2019

'I keep waking up thinking it was a dream' - Gareth O'Callaghan on Parkinson's diagnosis

Gareth O Callaghan
Gareth O Callaghan

Sasha Brady

Much-loved national radio broadcaster Gareth O'Callaghan has said that he is still struggling to come to terms with his Parkinson's diagnosis.

O'Callaghan took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to publicly announce that he had been diagnosed with the motor-neuron condition.

He said that he is still waking up at night thinking the diagnosis "was just a dream".

Speaking to the Niall Boylan Show on 4fm, O'Callaghan said he keeps hoping that "someone will come back and say 'that was a mis-diagnosis'".

"I'm in a quandary of disbelief, I'm kind of devastated but life goes on and I have to move with it, it's so important that I keep doing what I do," he said.

O'Callaghan said that he initially went through feelings of confusion and anger when he was first diagnosed but he is "slowly getting there" in terms of acceptance.

"I'm constantly reminding myself that this doesn't define me," he said.

The broadcaster, who turns 57 next week, said he had been feeling unwell for months before doctors confirmed he had Parkinson's. He just put his feelings down to stress, financial issues and "general life anxieties".

However, when doctors eventually diagnosed him with Parkinson's they said he had been living with the condition for a "couple of years". The 4fm host said the diagnosis came as a little bit of a relief because he was worried he was "going mad".

O'Callaghan said he chose to go public with his condition because the symptoms were starting to become noticeable.

"I was tripping, I was dropping things," he said. "I fell out of the bath one morning and I didn't understand why, other than my left leg and foot gave way."

He said that trying to get his mushrooms with a fork on the dinner plate sometimes 'became an Olympic sport", and he has also noticed changes in the way he delivers his speech.

"Sometimes you have to stop and choose words, it's not that your speech changes but the way you transport the words happens in a different way. I've found myself writing things down a lot more over the last year.

"I'm a very positive and optimistic person... I'm only at that stage where I'm beginning to gather the sources of strength but to be honest I'm devastated by the whole thing."

O'Callaghan, who wrote a book about his struggles with depression in the past, said he is determined not to let it get the better of him.

"You look as far into the future as you possibly can and you accept the ultimate, that we all die. I've either got a long way to or I'm going to give up," he said.

"If you give up you invite anxiety and depression in and it chews you up. You've got to say to yourself 'I don't know what this is and I don't know what it's doing inside me but it's not going to get me, the soul of the person."

He said it's sometimes easy, especially at night time to worry about what lies ahead but he said he is determined to "keep that light inside burning brightly".

The radio host paid tribute to all those who sent him messages of support after he delivered his news.

He also thanked his long-term partner Paula Delaney.

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