A CORK man living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) spoke of how he let “male pride” get in the way of his diagnosis following years of suffering.
Dan Collins, who lives in Jacob’s Island, said he started experiencing the symptoms of MS at the age of just 14.
As the years went on, his symptoms worsened.
Nonetheless, Dan chose to withhold certain details from his GP out of what he described as a misguided sense of male pride. The Timoleague native told his story as part of MS Awareness Month.
“I can remember being around 14 years old and complaining about my vision,” he said.
Now 43, Dan uses a wheelchair to get around and suffers from a number of other issues including extreme fatigue.
“My condition is like a graph going on a downward angle. During my youth, I tried to continue playing sport but the symptoms were too overpowering. Every year I’d break a finger.”
Dan said his diagnosis at the age of 27 came as a huge relief.
“I can actually remember thinking 'thank God'.
“It was a relief to know it hadn’t all been in my imagination.”
He confessed that the years leading up to that had been an ongoing struggle.
“In college, I was drinking a lot to self-medicate (sometimes over-medicating) as the pain was becoming so bad. If I was seeing a girl and she noticed any of my symptoms I’d just move on to another relationship rather than face up to it.
“After college, I got a job travelling around the world commissioning wind turbines. I convinced myself that because I was doing all these things I couldn’t have been sick.”
Dan has since come full circle and inspired countless people with his positive attitude.
“I try to do as much as I can. Last year I went to the Fr Ted festival and entered the 'dancing priest' competition. We all did our dance. I just did mine in the wheelchair,” he laughs.
“My diagnosis made me realise that I need to slow down and stop and smell the roses. Of course, I’ve had days where I’ve thought ‘why me?’ but then I think ‘why not me?’.”
The 43-year-old gets much of his strength from the people around him.
“My niece wrote an essay in school which I was really touched by. One of the lines read that “My Uncle Dan has MS but never has a cross face and is always happy.”
Dan has done everything he can to lead a full life since his diagnosis.
“A few years ago I went on a safari in Kenya. I got to see two lionesses taking down a wilderbeast — something even the driver of 10 years had never witnessed.”
To find out more about support for living with MS visit ms-society.ie