Just over a month ago my father-in-law was diagnosed with late stage Motor Neurone Disease (MND). For anyone who doesn’t know MND is a progressive neurological condition that attacks the motor neurones, or nerves, in the brain and spinal cord. The messages gradually stop reaching the muscles, which leads to weakness and wasting. MND can affect how you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe. It is terminal. Remember that Ice Bucket Challenge? Yeah, it was for this thing…


Cormac’s (my husband) father hasn’t been given a long time. There is a lot to get done, a lot to sort out. Finding him a nursing home, finding him a GP, sorting out his home, sorting out his legal situation, sorting out his pension and other finances, buying suitable clothing, visiting him as often as possible, reading to him, feeding him, sorting out arrangements for when he eventually passes. There is a lot to get done. And there is no one. Cormac has only one brother (and bless him he is doing all he can by phone and email) but he lives in Scotland, soon to be even further away. He can’t be here, at the front line as often as he’d like to. And Cormac’s relatives have their own lives and frankly don’t know what to do. The majority of it has been left to Cormac.


This is where I come in, I can’t just sit at the sidelines and watch Cormac struggle with all this. What kind of wife would that make me? What kind of friend would that make me? No, if Cormac was going to have to do this then he was not going to be doing it alone. Even if I suck at legal jargon and finances and technically have no say in what happens, I can still be there by his side. I can make burritos for our drives to Kilkenny to visit his father (which hopefully won’t be for too much longer), I can wash his dad’s laundry and feed his dad when Cormac just can’t anymore, I can chat to his dad when Cormac is trying to sort shit out with the doctors/nurses/admin staff. I am going to be there for him, I need to be be there for him.


Which brings me on (finally) to the topic of the post which is having to take a step back from our beloved rowing. This whole mess came at time when our crew was going through some major life changes. From ruptured discs to final year of college to getting a new job and moving away our crew has taken a blow this year. Myself and Cormac were just the icing on the cake! If you are (were) a rower you know that it just consumes your life. Consumes it! At the height of rowing season we’d be clocking up 20-25 hours at least a week (each!) and we’re not even that competitive! That’s time we just couldn’t spare anymore. Time that was going to now be taken up with phone calls, visiting hours, doctor appointments, solicitor meetings and endless, endless paperwork. We both knew we just couldn’t fit rowing in. With heavy hearts we told the rest of the crew that we had to take a step back. So that we could both take care of Cormac’s dad and still not burn out ourselves.


At first the idea felt novel to me. There is sometimes that niggling feeling that you’re training not because you want to but because you have to. Taking a step back freed me from that obligation. I felt the break was coming at the right time for me, that I was becoming tired of all the work involved. That I would still train when I could, I would still get out on the water but they would be on my terms. A month in and I realise now that I was wrong. I’m not training when I want to, I’m training when I can. Fitting in runs at lunch time and before breakfast when visiting my family. We said we were going to use our our nights not travelling to keep active. But actually we’ve been exhausted and fed up, just lying on the couch wishing we had the energy to train.


This whole thing is still really new, still so messy. Hopefully, when it begins to settle down we will have our life back a little. That we will have the time and energy (and desire) to exercise again, to train again. We miss it, so much. Rowing was such a huge part of our life. It feels odd passing over the all-in-one and watching our beautiful oars gather dust. It’s sad to press pause for now. To not feel a part of this amazing group we’ve spent nearly our whole lives in.


But isn’t that great thing about sport, when we’re able to go back to it we can. It will always be there for us.


An extra plug: I am actually running the Flora Mini Marathon this June to raise money for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association. Please if you could donate anything at all that would be so so helpful! My page is just here!