Despite being diagnosed with a rare and incurable disease, broadcaster Gareth O’Callaghan is determined to make the new year the “greatest year of his life so far”.
The author and broadcaster left his role in Classic Hits FM several months ago after receiving a diagnosis of Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a neurodegenerative illness.
The progressive disease results in a loss of function and death of different types of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Around 3,000 people in Ireland and the UK have been diagnosed with it.
Mr O’Callaghan, 57, took to Twitter to say: “Despite all that has happened this year, I have decided that 2019 is going to be the greatest year of my life so far.
“A year of discovery, and belongings, and new beginnings; a year to take on the greatest challenge of my life so far and learn new strength and courage from it.”
Despite all that has happened this year, I have decided that 2019 is going to be the greatest year of my life so far - a year of discovery, and belongings, and new beginnings; a year to take on the greatest challenge of my life so far and learn new strength and courage from it— Gareth O'Callaghan (@GarethOCal) December 19, 2018
He has previously said that he was devastated at being diagnosed with the incurable illness and added that he thought he might have been able to continue working, but unfortunately the pace and the painful decline of “this awful thing has really taken us by surprise”.
Over the past few days, Mr O’Callaghan expanded how he is feeling in a post on his Facebook page saying “there is a sense of urgency to get things done” and how surprised he is that some friends have “vanished” out of his life when he thought they would always be there to support him.
“I'm learning as I move out along this new direction that I never imagined I would take that the way I see life now is so utterly different to how everything appeared to be to me this time last year.
“There is a sense of urgency to get things done. Time becomes valuable; more valuable than money. Looking ahead becomes more refined and finely tuned. Precious loved ones become pricelessly precious. Special events become crucial hallmarks of your time remaining.
“Photos are no longer random; they are now footprints. Conversations are no longer taken for granted - they become the building blocks of the memories you will leave to others.
“I suppose I've had to learn and accept quickly that life doesn't always turn out how you expect it to. Many of the people you thought would always be there to support you seem to vanish.
“But you learn to accept that as a fact of your new life. It doesn't change how you feel about them. They're still fine and good people. It just makes you realise that you are on a journey that is unique to you.
“When you get bad news, many good things can come from it. That might sound like a contradiction but it's true. Realising that you now have limitations and huge challenges to face ahead makes you focus on the choices you are left with. Do I stay strong or do I fall apart? Do I allow other people's issues, and prejudices, and resentments affect me, or do I keep moving forward?
“Yes, I keep moving forward. No, I won't look back. Often when you receive a chronic diagnosis other people's reactions can blur and blunt your view of what lies ahead, of how you need to adapt and cope; but only you know how to deal with what's ahead of you. Only you."
“You can be given the best advice, but your body will never lie to you. Your inner voice will always tell you if your decisions are the right ones.
“That 2019 will be my year of discovery and new beginnings. I look ahead to a year of challenges and insight, strength and hope, and laughs and loving.
"2018 was a shit year for quite a few reasons. I'm not going to rake back over the coals here, but let's just say it was a year that I will happily move on from and leave behind.”
The father of three pointed out that he believes “positivity and intuition remain the cornerstones of everything. Otherwise the bridge that carries you from one end of the day to the other, from the darkness of the night to the light of the morning, collapses.
“And the words 'I love you' take on a giant importance and urgency like never before. These three simple words are a way of ensuring that those you really love will be forever in your heart...and you in theirs forever.
He also praised his partner Paula for her continuing love and support to him. “I really don’t know where my life would be without her. We have come through so much together since we met.”
Niamh Fitzpatrick, a leading psychologist and who lost her sister Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who died on board the ill-fated Rescue 116 helicopter off the coast of Mayo last year said of the popular broadcaster’s outlook on life, “Want to see courage, dignity, strength and resilience in action?
“Live in real time. Listen to what Gareth is saying.”