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Armagh mum forced to give up teaching after Early Onset of Parkinson’s diagnosis

At the age of just 48 Roisin says she wants to raise money – and awareness – for a forgotten illness that affects so many people

Roisin McVeigh with her dog Theo
Roisin with her dog, Theo

An Armagh mother-of-four who was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s at the age of just 48 says she wants to raise money – and awareness – for a forgotten illness that affects so many people.

Roisin McVeigh, who is now 55, has been dealing with Parkinson’s for the last seven years.

Her shock diagnosis, which she described as “an absolute kick to the stomach”, forced her into early retirement.

Roisin worked as a secondary school teacher but was hastened to give up that role as a result, after her brother – who was also diagnosed with Early Onset of Parkinson’s – noticed a few similarities in his younger sister.

“My older brother said to me ‘I think you have some of the symptoms I had’. I used to play the guitar and the first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t pluck the strings of the guitar. And then – I was teaching at the time – I couldn’t move the computer mouse. It was then I realised there was something not right. I went to the doctors and was diagnosed with Early Onset of Parkinson’s.

“As soon as I knew I had it, I took early retirement, because apparently stress is very bad for it. I was teaching in a secondary school at the time, driving about 28 miles every day, so I just couldn’t do it. I took a year out and then went for early retirement.”

Needless to say the illness has had an impact on Roisin’s life and those around her – but she’s an optimist.

“The fact I have Early Onset means it’s less rapid than an older person having it. The medication is very good but eventually the medication will stop doing its job. If I wasn’t on medication I would have a bad tremor and a limp. I keep very active and I keep myself as well as I can, so there’s not a lot of deterioration so far, thankfully.

“You can go either way, you can go down and feel sorry for yourself, moan and groan all day, but for me, it’s not life-threatening, I can still do everything I used to, bar a few wee bits and pieces; it’s not the worst illness in the world.”

Roisin has taken on the challenge of walking 66 miles in the month of July as part of a UK-wide Parkinson’s initiative to raise money and awareness for the disease.

It’s Roisin’s first time doing something like this and she feels that her story might give someone living with Parkinson’s a little hope that there is still plenty of work going on in the background to find a cure.

Said Roisin: “It’s just to let people know that there is research being done and this is to fund and help that. I don’t know of many people in the area with Parkinson’s but I know there are bound to be people living with it.

“It’s just to kind of let them see; it’s kind of a forgotten illness in a way because they’re saying there’s no cure and we don’t really hear a lot about research. I think people with Parkinson’s feel a little bit like there’s not enough money or enough publicity, so I’m doing my bit to help.”

Roisin has already racked up 16 miles or so, alongside her trusty dog, Theo.

“I decided if I wasn’t going to be able to work that I would get a dog. Theo has been coming for a walk with me every day and he’s been a part of the challenge. He’s my wee Parkinson’s dog.”

Roisin concluded: “Without the research, a cure won’t come, and without the money, there is no research.”

To donate to Roisin’s cause click the link here.

To find out more about Parkinson’s Disease, click here.

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