I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease by Dr.Costigan a neurologist in Eccles Street When I was 21. He assessed me in his private practice and came to the conclusion that I had Young Onset Parkinson’s (YOPD).I was referred to Dr Tim Lynch in the Mater hospital who I have been attending ever since. I have had a tremor in my right hand for as long as I can remember but started to notice it in secondary school where I would be sitting class with my hands resting on the desk and noticing my fingers twitching for no reason. I never really paid that much attention to it and it never really bothered me.
When I was 18 I started work at The Open Golf Centre in St.Margarets. I had just started to play golf and never really thought about becoming a Professional
Golfer. When I started I was given a handicap of 16 and I turned professional just before my 20 Birthday. The tremor in my hand became more noticeable, especially when I was putting and started to affect my game so I decided to go and have it checked out. I don’t know why but I was kind of expecting it to be Parkinson’s as my granddad had it late in his life so the diagnosis did not surprise me. I was however surprised that only 5% of Parkinson’s patients are under the age of 40.
Professor Lynch ran tests to confirm conclusively that it was YOPD. I had a number of scans including 3 MRI’s to finalise the diagnosis. As odd and as rare as it was I had YOPD. As anyone with Parkinson’s will tell you finding the correct mixture of medications is the key. Finding the ones that work for you is important and the correct dosages as it progresses and things change.
I’ve never lost a wink of sleep over having Parkinson’s it’s something I have and nothing is going to change that so I can either get on with my life or sit and sulk about why me !!! Luckily that’s not me I don’t sit around and sulk when bad things happen. You just do whatever it takes to get where you want to go in life and give it your best and that’s all you can do. The one thing that bothers me is the not knowing how quickly it will progress there’s no set timetable for it you just take it as it comes.
I will never forget the occupational therapist I went to see. She sent her report back to my doctor and recommended that I look at an alternative occupation and suggested working in a toll booth or a ticket booth at a cinema would be ideal. I was a bit taken back when I read the report. Going from being a Professional Golfer to working in a toll booth was never something I thought would happen but I respect her for her opinion but at the end of the day that’s all it was …. Her opinion.
I hope people aren’t reading this and feeling sorry for me because I don’t and I never will I’m going to keep on going and let nothing stand in my way of becoming a fully qualified PGA Pro. I now have the Parkinsons.ie logo on my golf bag and also on some golf shirts I wear. I want to do all I can to help people in the future that find themselves in a similar situation. I’m not going to say its easy because it’s not far from it, but everything needs to be put in perspective as to what your goals in life are and once you have done that then give it your best and accept what happens good or bad that’s all you can do. It is not easy sometimes as I cannot get a pension or life assurance because of my situation. My main goals in life haven’t changed but I have a family with soon to be 3 young girls and my wife who I need to prioritise so hopefully by me setting my goals and getting to that point where I am a PGA pro and teaching golf which is the thing I love doing most, the rest should look after itself. I have a lot of support from my friends and family.
I’m going to become more active in raising awareness of Parkinson’s in the coming years. I’ve already done an article in the Irish Examiner and have been on the Ryan Tubridy radio show. I am also going to give 30% of my group lessons fees to Parkinson’s.ie throughout 2013. So you will probably be seeing more of me but hopefully not too much. We have to raise awareness of this illness as there is no Government funding like most charities receive so were not going to sit back and let that happen we will be fund raising and doing everything we can to raise enough money to support the people in Ireland who have Parkinson’s disease and hopefully I can help do so by doing my bit which I love doing anyway.