I remember waking up on a Monday morning and feeling like something was wrong straight away. I felt intoxicated yet i had not been drinking the night before. The room was spinning and it felt like i was walking around on the deck of a ship. I could not hear or see properly but i still managed to drive thirty minutes away and open up the gym i was managing. I remember people talking to me and things not registering with me and not knowing how to put my sentences together. It was very strange but i had a job, mortgage and two children so i tried to keep working. My doctor had no idea what was wrong and after 8 weeks and various courses of antibiotics i was finally diagnosed with MS.I had no idea what MS was and was told to look it up on the internet which was probably the worst advice i could have been given. When i read that MS would be like being in a coffin not being able to see, hear or move but your heart still beats i was devastated.It felt like a death sentence. Obviously from being an athlete and fitness trainer all my life this was a huge shock. I was put on a medication Avonex which gave me flu like symptoms where i would shake like i had a virus and left me so lethargic i could barely get out of bed to go sit on the sofa. I remember trying to do the shopping one day and like a glass being emptied i was left lying on the ground in Tesco unable to walk to the till. My two children about seven and nine at the time did not know what to do and i had to get someone to come and collect us. The photo of me at my unhealthiest shows me smiling but i was putting on a brave face there. I was trying to help coach the Buccaneers Under 20’s Rugby team against Shannon that day and during the warm up it hit me again and i had to rest against a tree while someone else continued the warm up. Every time i tried to be positive and do something i ended up on my back and angry at myself for being weak. I hated looking in the mirror at the stranger looking back at me. I believe that my upbringing in a strong family and experience gained from playing sport at a high level kept me from giving in but there were times i did not see a positive future. MS changed the dynamic of a lot of my relationships and i tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and tell people very quickly that i have MS. I have this fear that people may treat me differently or reject me if they find out down the line so it is better to tell them straight away.
One thing was for certain i was not going to give up and i knew that it was stupid trying the same thing over and again and expecting a different result. I decided to take charge of my health and moved back to Australia for a while. I found some research that said that a lack of vitamin D could be a factor in my diagnosis so decided i needed some sunshine. I moved to Newcastle near Sydney as my Mum and Sister were situated in the Hunter Valley at the time. There was an Olympic size rock pool at Newcastle Beach and i started by swimming one 50 meter lap per day. Gradually it built it up to to one kilometer per day then two kilometers as i could feel the sun energising me and my health improved dramatically. Not only did i try to change my physical health but i wanted to improve my mental health too. First of all i stopped watching the news as the recession was in full swing and i started watching comedies and things that made me happy every day. I started to listen to Dr Wayne Dyer and read philosophy, poetry and biography’s including that of Nelson Mandela. The poem Invictus was something that gave me great inspiration and still does.All of these changes made such a change to me that when i drove to Sydney Airport to collect my children three months later they actually walked past me as they could not recognise me.
I am now in a position where i have my own fitness business in Smithfield teaching classes, corporate fitness and Personal Training. I am up at 5.30 most days and not home till 9 pm so have to try to take regular breaks through the day. I train every day but sometimes i still get the odd bad day. My philosophy on that is people without MS get days where they don’t feel good too so i don’t let it get me down. It is just my body’s way of telling me to slow down. I believe MS helped me change the direction of my life. I am now in a position where i help other people with the disease and also those who don’t. I am way happier now living in Dublin being self employed and i am surrounded by really nice people and have made some great friendships. From this hugely negative period of my life came a different but very positive future that i could not see at the time. I remember this when times are tough.
If you are in a similar situation and would like to talk me, please don’t hesitate to contact me!