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  • Southside

From MS to a marathon

Tuesday, 6th March, 2018 1:00pm
From MS to a marathon

Cllr Mark Ward: Was diagnosed with MS and is now running a marathon.

From MS to a marathon

Cllr Mark Ward: Was diagnosed with MS and is now running a marathon.

Mark Ward

IN 2005 my life as I knew it was over.

After years of being hospitalised, misdiagnosed and countless tests, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

I remember getting the news and my feelings were a mixture of relief and fear. Relief that I knew exactly what I was dealing with but the overriding emotion was fear. Fear for my family and my future.

My initial reaction was to turn to Dr Google.

I researched everything I could find on MS. My state of mind at the time would not let me focus on anything positive. I basically diagnosed myself in having the worst case possible.

I developed a persona that enabled me to put on a front to the outside world, that everything was fine. I was getting pats on the back from friends saying how well I was coping. The reality was different. Inside I was dying.

I was caught in such a ball of fear that I isolated myself from my family, including my children. I was unable to articulate how I was feeling.

I slipped into depression for a number of years. I lost a career, I pushed family and friends away.

I could be on Hill 16 surrounded by thousands and yet I felt alone. I was afraid that if I talked about how I was feeling that the persona that I was portraying would shatter and I would shatter with it.

There were many interventions by concerned people during this time.

I went to various doctors and got counselling but because I could not get honest with them nothing worked.

My physical health deteriorated. I was on walking stick at 32. I had little power in my hands. I was in constant pain. I was always fatigued. My moods were extreme.

After losing another job. I found myself unemployed for the first time in my life.

The shame I felt as a man that always provided for his family multiplied the other issues in my life. I had a complete mental and physical breakdown.

Depression crippled me emotionally. I could barely wash myself.

My self-esteem was non-existent and I pushed everybody who cared for me away.

None of this was by intention but rather symptomatic of depression.

During this time a new fear replaced the fears I had about MS.

The fear of losing my children and not being there for them kickstarted a psychic change in me.

Slowly I started to make changes. The first change was the easiest and also the hardest. I began to talk.

I started to change my lifestyle. I changed my diet, stopped drinking alcohol and started exercising.

Gradually things started to improve. I enrolled in a course that led onto college.

A memory that always sticks with me is walking through UCD to college with all the other students and finally realising that I was as good as any of them.

I qualified as a behavioural therapist and was working in a job that I adored, specialising working with people with addiction issues. I had a talent working with people that society had discarded.

I live day by day now. I believe that we only get one chance of this life and I take every opportunity I can to make a difference.

When I got the opportunity to represent my community of Clondalkin as a councillor I didn’t hesitate, even though it was big hit financially.

To be honest, I am not a fortune teller, I have no idea what the future will bring and if I thought worrying would make it better I would worry, but it doesn’t.

The reason I have decided to take part in the marathon is to raise awareness for newly diagnosed people with MS.

I was diagnosed at 31, on a walking stick by 32 and had myself convinced I was on the scrapheap at 33.

Today I am healthy, mentally and physically. My relationships with my family and friends is unbelievable.

I live a fully active life where I try on a daily basis to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

To show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“If what I am doing helps them and their families not to suffer the way I and my family did it will be worth it.

There will be a lot of people who know me who will be shocked to find out about this.

I do not need to speak about MS now as it does not impact my life as much. I have bad days but they are getting further apart.

Having MS does not define me. I changed my thinking about MS.

If I believed my thoughts in 2005 I wouldn’t be able to walk to the shop today but instead I’m running a marathon.

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