Gareth O'Callaghan to step down from radio after being diagnosed with 'incurable' and rare disease

File photo of Gareth O'Callaghan.

By Olivia Kelleher

Broadcaster and author, Gareth O'Callaghan, says he plans to remain "strong and positive" in spite of having to leave his role in Classic Hits FM following his diagnosis with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA).

In a post on his Facebook page this morning, Mr O'Callaghan said he was devastated at being diagnosed with the neurodegenerative illness.

"It is a rare disease, very progressive and sadly incurable. I thought I might have been able to continue working as normal for another few months but, unfortunately, the pace and the painful decline of this awful thing has really taken us by surprise."

Mr O'Callaghan said he was learning to take life a day at a time.

"I've always said that life is only a short journey, and that is true - whether you are lucky enough to remain healthy throughout; or you suddenly find you are unexpectedly challenged by something you never thought would happen to you: something that terrifies you and challenges you at every level of your being. I now find myself facing those challenges. "

The popular and respected broadcaster said he would miss being on the radio. However, his voice is slowly deteriorating because of his condition.

He said it was his intention to fight the disease for as long as is possible. He also vowed to keep on writing.

Meanwhile, earlier this year he thanked listeners for their support after he announced that he had Parkinson's disease.

Speaking on the Neil Prendeville show, on Cork's Red FM in March, Mr O'Callaghan acknowledged he had been feeling very unwell over the last few years. However, he attributed certain symptoms of the condition to stress.

"I was tripping. I was dropping things in work. When you drop a cup of coffee literally out of your hand and it scalds your foot and people look at you and think "what's wrong with him?"

I fell out of the bath one morning and I didn't understand why I fell out.

"I have noticed changes in you have to stop and choose words. It is not that your speech changes the way you transport the words it happens in a different way.

"When I was diagnosed I was told I have had this for a couple of years which in a way was a relief to me. There were times over the last few years where I thought I was going mad. I couldn't figure out what it was."

The former 2FM DJ, who is also a successful writer, said he was diagnosed after a series of conundrums came together. He read an article about Parkinson's in the Daily Mail in which DJ David Jensen spoke of the condition.

Gareth realised he could have taken the DJ's name out and inserted his given the similarities of the symptoms.

After the initial diagnosis in March, he was subsequently diagnosed with MSA.

Gareth added that there was always great solace to be found in music.

"I have always found music to be great medicine. The radio show for me is more than just a few hours of music it has become a way of life for me. Over the last 30 years, we (the listeners) have all grown together. The radio show for me is more than just a job. It always was."

MSA is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a combination of symptoms that affect both the autonomic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary action, such as blood pressure or digestion) and movement.

The symptoms reflect the progressive loss of function and death of different types of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

MSA is a rare disease with around 3,300 people in the UK and Ireland currently living with it.

Most Read in Showbiz