Ireland has one of the highest levels of Multiple Sclerosis in Europe, and Inishowen has one of the highest levels of MS in Ireland.
According to Noel Devlin when he first got diagnosed with the condition he was very surprised to learn that most of his fellow sufferers were living not that far away.
The Burnfoot man told the ‘Journal’: “Most of the people I know who have MS live in Inishowen. When I go to meetings its always stated that the highest incidence of the condition is in the peninsula. I would say, without question,that there is a disproportionate incidence of the condition here.”
According to the statistics more than 7,000 people and families live with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) across Ireland.
There is no known cause or cure. MS symptoms usually start between the ages of 25 and 31 and can last a lifetime.
MS symptoms vary from person to person and from time to time.
Noel believes in getting on with life but, he says, you can’t ignore the realities of living with it either.
“My principal problem is tiredness, and this can lead to difficulties with planning. For example you could say to me I’ll met you on Friday. Doesn’t sound difficult, does it? But the problem is that on Friday I could be so tired I could not get out of bed.”
Noel was 28 and working in Fruit of the Loom when he was diagnosed with the condition.
“I was married by them, and we had young children. Back then I worked away and was able to keep going but at the back of your head you were always thinking. ‘what about next year?’, ‘will I still be able to walk?’, ‘will I be in a wheelchair.’
“To tell the truth I still worry about it. You have to get on with things but’s is not easy. If effects every aspect of day to day living.
“ We have four children ranging in age from 14 down to six. It can get hectic.
“I come from a big family and myself and my wife had intended to have a big family but we had to have a re-think. Indeed, when my wife got pregnant and I was getting regular injections for the MS I was worried if I had passed on or caused damage to our unborn child. That’s the sort of thing you worry about.”
Despite frequent claims of exciting breakthroughs in research on the condition Noel says in the past ten years he has noticed very little by way of new treatments.
“I suppose the biggest breakthrough is that some of the treatments that used to require injections can now be taken in tablet form. One couple I know alternate the injections and the tablets - she takes the tablet one night, the injection the next. And then they reverse it. That way it eases the soreness.”
And the final bit of advice Noel has is that people should not suffer in silence.
“Ir really is good talk. By talking about it you are getting your fears out in the open. It is also good for partners to come along. They can see how other people deal with MS, how they are coping. It is important for people not to feel alone.
“I would also urge greater attendance from MS sufferers in Inishowen at the monthly Donegal MS meetings in Ballybofey.
If you want to learn more about MS you can visit www.ms-society.ie or read ‘Journal’ reporter Catherine Doran’s blog http://alifecopingwithms.blogspot.com