Against the Odds - IMNDA %

Against the Odds

Living with Motor Neurone Disease by Andy McGovern

“MND may ravage your body but it can never reach your soul, your fighting spirit, or the love that fills your heart”

Book Introduction

At the age of forty-three I was on top of the world. I was married with a wife and six children, I had my own business and the world was mine. As I busily planned our future, I was not to know that the hand of fate was about to intervene and change everything. Our dreams came crashing down on us and all our hopes and aspirations lay shattered at our feet when I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, a terminal illness of the central nervous system.

The story I now share with you is one of picking up the pieces and putting the jigsaw back together. It is a story of digging deep to find the inner hero and summoning every ounce of courage and strength that a human being can find. During the early years of this disease I experienced the daily struggles of living with a disability: frustration, anger and feelings of helplessness. Then slowly, like the phoenix from the ashes, I shook off my mantle of despair. I came to accept my disability, I reclaimed my life and, gradually, I found my rainbow’s end. To my amazement, I once more tasted the joys of living.

My greatest desire is that my story will bring inspiration to other disabled people to have the courage to deal with their situation. All royalties from the sale of this book will go to the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA), which supports those who suffer from this devastating disease and also those who search for a cure for it. A cure may not be found in my lifetime but that does not worry me. If I’m not here to witness it, I will smile from the heavens above, knowing that I have made a small contribution to this achievement.

As I approach my eightieth birthday, I look back on my own life. It has been a wonderful life, with all the emotions that any human being could expect to experience. I grew up in an era very different from today. I believe that no generation has seen as many changes as the people who were born in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. I know that we all live in periods of change but the changes that have taken place in Ireland over the past seventy years have taken everyone by surprise. I am fortunate to have witnessed this period. I write my story so that my children and grandchildren and future generations can know something about the Ireland of the past and the way of life of its great people.

In 1977, I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Today, thirty-six years on, I am still alive, much to the amazement of my neurologists. As this is a progressive disease, I am now severely disabled and have lost almost all power in my hands and arms, but I am grateful for the abilities I still have. I wrote this book with the help of modern assistive technology, in the form of Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice-recognition software. The Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association lent me a computer and the software, which allows me to write by speaking into a microphone and on occasion using a foot mouse. The whole process demanded a lot of concentration but it was the only way for me to tell my story.

A disability can ignite initiative in a person and become the stepping stone for them to pursue other projects. This is the reason I’m writing the story of my life, as well as wishing to pay tribute to the inspiring people I met along the way.

Andy launched the book on 10th February in his local pub; McCaffreys Bar, Aughavas, Co Leitrim which also coincided with his 80th birthday celebrations and what a party it was! A great time was had with Andy’s daughters making the trip from Scotland and the States to share this very special occasion with their dad.

A Dublin launch then followed on 26th February in the Light House Cinema, Smithfield with special guests including Jimmy Magee, Professor Orla Hardiman and one of the founding members of the IMNDA – Eithne Frost. Around 100 people attended to show their support, listen to some very moving speeches and of course purchase the book.

The IMNDA would like to take this opportunity to thank Andy for the awareness he has raised in national and local media over the last few months, we are truly grateful for all the interviews and travelling you have done to promote this wonderful story. Thanks to the publisher Londubh Books and everyone who has purchased a copy or attended a launch.

Purchase the Book

Against the Odds – Living with Motor Neurone Disease is available to purchase from the IMNDA for €14.99 including postage and packaging (an electronic/PDF version can be purchased and emailed at a cost of €10). Visit our online shop at, freefone 1800 403 403 or forward on a cheque/postal order/draft (IMNDA, Coleraine House, Coleraine Street, Dublin 7) to order yours. You can also avail of our 2 book bundle offer and purchase Against the Odds and Andy’s first book – They Laughed at this Man’s Funeral (normally €10) for just €20!


“The book is specially dedicated to those people whose lives have been touched by motor neurone disease: to the many dear friends I have lost along the way – a little piece of my heart went with you as you lost your brave battle against the disease; to the three hundred and twenty people in Ireland today who live with MND – we are bonded together by the hope for a future cure; to those who tomorrow will hear the shocking words, ‘You have motor neurone disease’– I would like you to take a little inspiration from my story.

MND may ravage your body but it can never reach your soul, your fighting spirit, or the love that fills your heart.” Andy McGovern.