Broadcaster and former 2FM DJ Gareth O’Callaghan has said he is not afraid to die, despite being diagnosed with an incurable neurodegenerative disease.
“I was actually asked by some people last week was I scared of dying. No. I’m not afraid to die. Death doesn’t scare me, I just don’t want to die.
“I want to live on and I want to keep living and maybe with that positive view that I’m not going to let this thing get that close to me for a very long time, hopefully I will be able to keep going,” he said.
The 57-year-old father-of-three revealed his illness to his Classic Hits colleagues earlier this month as he announced he was hanging up his headphones to “create happy memories”.
I wanted to step back because now I want to spend that time doing little things,” he told RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy yesterday.
“You can’t say I’m going a little bit. You have to make a very big sweeping decision. I just decided no, I want to go. I want to write. I want to go back to West Cork. I want to do little things. I just want to spend time getting to know a side of me that I didn’t know before, if there is such a thing,” the DJ said.
Approximately one year ago, he was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a rare neurodegenerative disease that attacks and destroys the body’s central nervous system. It is part of the Parkinson’s family.
Initially Gareth put his symptoms down to being “stressed” and “run down.”
“About a year ago I began to feel really unwell. I’m 57, very stressed, there’s an awful lot going on, you’re getting a bit run down.
I was working six days a week and I was doing an awful lot of stuff and I began to realise there were some changes happening.
“I realised I was losing a lot of power in my left hand, that my left foot was beginning to drag, and it felt heavier than the right one,” he said.
“I would notice in the morning if I was having mushrooms for my breakfast, that I couldn’t actually get the fork into the mushroom,” he added.
The DJ eventually went to his GP and then a neurologist before he was diagnosed with MSA.
While he already experiences tremors in his body and his speech had begun to “crackle” after about 15 minutes on-air, the progression of the illness is such that he will inevitably end up “confined to bed”.
However, the broadcaster is determined to be positive.
“I think if you’re positive, if you remain hopeful, if you remain optimistic, strong, exercise is key, you’ve got to keep exercising the muscles, otherwise your legs will stop working. If you say: ‘Oh my god I am falling apart’, this thing says: ‘Well, happy days. Let’s push it into third, fourth gear here now.’
“It [MSA] would prefer you just to lie down and do nothing but I won’t do that.”