Flagging energy, boundless love

Mum’s MS is accepted by her children, says Helen O’Callaghan.

ALISON O’Regan, 40, wants to be there for her two daughters. She was diagnosed with MS — the most common disabling neurological condition in Ireland — when Abigail, 11, was born.

“I was very ill after Abigail’s birth. It was daunting being a new mother without also feeling so sick. It was a relief to find a name for what I had,” she says.

Alison’s main symptom is fatigue. She and sales rep husband, Jim, work around it.

“I rest when the girls are at school. Jim’s job allows him work from home in the mornings. He goes to Cork one day a week and I do the breakfast and school run that day.”

Clonmel-based Alison’s wish is to have energy for her girls’ needs.

“I’m conscious of being there for them, of taking them to after-school activities. I don’t want the girls to feel different because their mum has a disability.

When I have to use my stick, it upsets them. Otherwise, I have no obvious sign of disability. I think the girls are well-adjusted to it,” she says.

Abigail and sister, Kaitlyn, nine, are more confident talking about MS since the family joined MS Readathon in 2010 (biggest annual fundraiser for MS Ireland). They’re ambassadors for this year’s Readathon.

Last year, Abigail read 27 books, raising €2,000. This year, she’s on her 31st book — her target’s 40.

“Reading takes my mind off things, ” she says.

“I really don’t know what it’s like to have a Mum that doesn’t have MS. Some things are probably the same: Mum helps me with homework, tells me off when I’m being bold, and looks after me and Kaitlyn.

“Some things are different. Mum gets really tired and has to sleep a lot. She gets pains in her legs. A few times, she had to use a stick to help her walk. Sometimes, Mum’s MS makes her mix up words. Like, if she meant to say ‘Get out your homework’ she might say ‘Get out your dinner’.

“Sometimes, we laugh when that happens. Sometimes, Mum doesn’t. I love cooking with her ... If Mum’s sick she’ll tell me the recipe and I’ll cook it.”

Kaitlyn, who aims to read 30 books, says: “I love when Mum’s feeling well and we can go to the park with her.”


¦ Last year, over 21,000 students participated in MS Readathon. This year, 500 schools are involved.

¦ Children read over half a million books in 2011, raising €730,000.

¦ Funds went towards vital services for people with MS.

¦ There’s still time to sponsor children reading – visit www.msreadathon.ie.

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