Local rugby legend determined to battle disease

2014-10-17 00:00

INSTEAD of taking his diagnosis with motor neuron disease (MND) as a death sentence, local rugby legend Ryan Walker accepted the disease as a challenge, and is fighting for the sake of his young daughter.

Walker, who became a local star while playing for the Sharks from 2003 to 2005, reflected on how his life has changed in the past few years.

He said he became ill around the time his first daughter, Molly, was born.

“It all started in my hands and I would get these twitches all over. We first thought it was bacterial meningitis, but with this disease, it’s a long process of ruling out all other diseases and viruses before you can diagnose it as MND,” Walker said.

He was officially diagnosed with motor neuron disease, which has also struck Springbok legend Joost van der Westhuizen, in December 2012.

“I can still get around now. I walk with a bit of a side-step, but thankfully we can still live a normal life for now,” Walker said appreciatively.

“We try to focus on the good stuff instead of what might happen later.”

Walker has twice undergone painful stem-cell therapy in India, with the hope of staving off the effects of the disease.

“When you’re in a position like ours, you tend to try everything and anything,” he said.

“I’ve fallen down the stairs and sometimes I can’t even pick my daughter up and hold her. It’s at that point, when you think you’ve had enough, that you really start fighting.”

Walker described being diagnosed with the disease as a “surreal experience”. “It never felt like a death sentence; it felt like a challenge. It has changed my life. It taught me never to take anything for granted and made me realise that no matter who we are, we are all made of the same stuff. It’s shown me that everything we have is a privilege, not a right,” he said.

MND, also known as ALS, is a degenerative disease that affects the motor neurons of the nervous system.

•The Ryan Walker Foundation will be hosting an “Oktoberfest” this Saturday to support Ryan’s cause. It takes place on Farside Farm in Nottingham Road from 12 pm to 10 pm. Participants can enjoy live music and screening of rugby with dinner and drinks.

For more information, contact 083 391 5505 or e-mail info@farsidefarm.co.za

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