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Defiant Eurovision star Joe vows: I've got MS, but MS hasn't got me

FORMER Eurovision star Joe McCaul has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

The 25-year-old singer revealed he got the news last month.

"My world crumbled around me. I was crying and the doctors just left me be," he said.

Joe and his sister Donna 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.

DEVASTATED

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

"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," he said.

"I got a call from my neurologist's secretary to come back up to St James's 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. 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 having MS with the fact that he was only 25. 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".

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

The support of his mother Helen has been crucial.

"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 help from family, friends and with messages of support from the public.

Next month, Joe starts a course of medication which involves injecting himself into the thigh.

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 in March, has formed a new band, and plans to run his first marathon in Dublin in October.

GRIEVING

"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," Joe said.

"I now have to start planning my goals quickly because I don't know what time I have to get them.

"My advice is that when you are hit with something like this you have to give yourself time. When I was told, it was like a grieving process. I am still grieving, I suppose, but you can allow yourself to feel what you are feeling."

hnews@herald.ie


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