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Column: 'I have to teach myself to smile (I didn't realise it was so easy to lose a smile)'

53-year-old Bandon native Fiach Lynch has MS and is running the Cork City Marathon in June.

Fiach Lynch Living with MS

WHEN I WAS first diagnosed with MS, it was a huge shock to me and to my family. We would never have expected MS to enter our lives.

But in spite of this scary new reality, I was instantly struck by the positive feeling of back-up and support from those around me. I felt I wasn’t alone, which is so important.

People think that when you are diagnosed with MS, life as you know it is finished. This is a common misconception but learning to deal with it and understanding it is the real challenge.

I haven’t given up on fitness

In the early days following my diagnosis, I needed to walk with the aid of a cane for balance, but fast forward to today and I am signed up to participate in the Irish Examiner Cork City Marathon on Sunday 3 June.

I aim to finish the half marathon by running, walking or staggering all the way to the finish line.

Thankfully, fitness has always been part of my life. I was never someone to take it easy. Farming, windsurfing and sailing are strenuous activities I am well used to and I haven’t given up on these in spite of living with MS.

Training regime

When it came to beginning my training regime for the Cork City Marathon, I started with small walks and gentle stretches. I have also joined a pilates course and slowly but surely my flexibility is getting better.

At the beginning the pain was strong, but I knew if I kept pushing myself it would get easier. I have country roads all around me and my dog is great for coming on walks with me, so there is no excuse. When I come back from my walks I do have to take time out to recover from pushing myself so much, but at least I feel I have achieved more than yesterday.

By adding an extra challenge to the list each day, it makes me feel stronger. I also attend the Functional Zone in Leisure World Bishopstown every Thursday. They have given me a fantastic workout regime and I am lucky to get such great attention and help from the team each week.

Inspiration

The inspiration for competing in the half marathon came from watching my daughter Michaella complete last year’s Cork City Marathon. The look on her face when she got to the finish line motivated me to enter.

Michaella would love to compete alongside me this year, but she is due her second child just ten days after the race. Family and friends are great for providing encouragement with the marathon coming up and I know that my daughters and my grandchild will be cheering me on from the side lines that day.

Challenges of MS

In the meantime, the training continues, as do the challenges of living with MS. There are days when I can’t think straight; I get confused when I’m tired.

I have to teach myself to smile (I didn’t realise it was so easy to lose a smile). I work all the time at staying positive and keeping the stress levels down. I attend MS men’s meetings to chat to others who understand and who are in a similar situation.

Most importantly, I have learned to listen to my body. When I’m tired, I have to stop and recharge or I will be paying for it for a few days.

I plan on staying both physically and mentally fit and strong for as long as possible. This illness is not short-term, so I will do anything that helps me to keep fighting.

53-year-old Bandon native, Fiach Lynch is a loving husband and father of three girls. Fiach is a grandfather of one, and is excited to welcome another grandchild this June.

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Fiach Lynch  / Living with MS

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