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'The medication is constantly improving' - ex-Limerick star on living with multiple sclerosis

Former All-Star hurler Andrew O’Shaughnessy has always been positive about his condition.

WHEN FORMER LIMERICK hurler Andrew O’Shaughnessy was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2009, he was given strict instructions not to Google the condition.

Andrew O'Shaughnessy Andrew O'Shaughnessy has always had a positive outlook about his MS. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

According to his neurologist, the Irish MS Society was the most reputable place to research the symptoms online if he wanted to find out more. But other websites claiming to have information about the disease of the brain and spinal chord were to be avoided.

“He said not to read anything else because you’d find anything on the internet,” says the former Limerick attacker as he reflects on those early days of living with MS.

“I could give myself 10 diagnoses, the same as if you had the flu. Dr Google is the worst thing in world. It can be good at times but it can be the worst in the world.”

Fortunately, O’Shaughnessy never felt the urge to investigate all the details surrounding MS.

Knowing that his symptoms were on the best possible end of the scale was enough for him and he always endeavored to have a positive outlook from the start.

His nurse at the time noticed that impressive attitude, and asked if she could pass on his number to other MS patients, telling him that he could offer them advice on how to manage and live with the condition.

A decade on from first discovering the disease, that irrepressible spirit is still visible in the Kilmallock man who will feature in one of the episodes in the new Laochra Gael series.

If you actually think about it,” he reasons, “I don’t want to sound petty or naive, but if you think about things too much they will affect you. But if you try to stay positive, that’s all that can happen.

“I’m not being an advocate and saying I’m a great case scenario. Fortunately, I seem to be dealing with it ok but not everyone’s the same and I appreciate that. If I can give them some bit of comfort or solace, that’s all well and good.

“Invariably, I’d say about 10 or 15 people have rang me for advice. I just try to give them a positive outlook. I’ve met a few people who have been diagnosed with it and they seem happy enough with what I said.”

The new Laoachra Gael series begins next week with nine-time All-Ireland winner Jackie Tyrrell featuring in episode one. O’Shaughnessy’s story is coming up in the fifth episode while fellow GAA legends Rena Buckley, Seamus Darby, Kieran Duff and Colm Cooper are also under the spotlight this season.

Andrew O'Shaughnessy and Jackie Tyrrell O'Shaughnessy breaking away from Kilkenny's Tommy Walsh in the 2007 All-Ireland final. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

A teaser clip of what’s in store during the series shows O’Shaughnessy becoming emotional while speaking about his MS. He’s not sure where the reaction came from and the 2007 All-Star forward promises that he’s not an emotional person.

He says it doesn’t run in the family either, adding that it was a shock to see tears in his brother’s eyes when Limerick ended a 45-year wait for the Liam MacCarthy Cup last year.

“It’s very stuffy inside,” he laughs before delving further into how he felt when speaking in front of the Laochra Gael cameras.

You wouldn’t really talk about it in front of a camera obviously. I suppose up close and personal, dark lights and an intimate setting that you wouldn’t normally be talking about it in.

“I was hoping they wouldn’t show it but they did.”

According to MS Ireland, there are four different types of MS. The cause for the disease is unknown although research suggests that it could be linked with a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Some patients may be “mildly affected” by the symptoms during their lives, while the condition can be more progressive for others.

Andrew O'Shaughnessy There are some misconceptions associated with MS, according to O'Shaughnessy. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

O’Shaughnessy belongs to the former group and says that “life is normal” for him while also acknowledging that others have not been so lucky in living with MS. 

He has found however, that people sometimes draw their own conclusions about MS without understanding all the facts. He still remains positive about his own situation but he’s acutely aware of the misconceptions that are associated with the condition.

“I’m on the least troublesome strain and I’ll stay on that as much as possible.

“The medication is constantly improving so when people hear about MS, they think about the nearest person who has MS and think ‘oh Jesus, he’s in a wheelchair or she’s in a wheelchair.’

“That’s not always the case. I was talking to a good friend of mine from home last week and they said they met a fella talking about me and asking about my health.

Obviously the answer was good, and then they asked ‘how’s he getting on with the wheelchair?’

“People just make up their own assumptions because they don’t know.

“Look, I know there’s people in worse case scenarios and I’m sorry for them and unfortunately, that’s just life. You just have to deal with whatever your dealt with.”

For more information about MS, visit MS Ireland here.

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